Bluetooth is a technology standard used for the wireless transmission of data over short distances and for building personal area networks using ultra-high frequency radio waves in the free-to-use or unlicensed ISM band of 2.4 GHz frequency. Note that this frequency falls under the microwave classification within the electromagnetic spectrum. This is the same range used by most Wi-Fi routers starting from the first generation and microwave ovens. Nevertheless, this technology is one of the standards used in wireless communication, and it has become one of the standard connectivity features found in most communication devices. This article lists and discusses the advantages and disadvantages of Bluetooth.
Benefits: Advantages of Bluetooth
1. Wireless Transmission of Data
One of the primary advantages of Bluetooth is that it allows devices to transmit data wirelessly. This translates to more specific such as wireless device pairing to create a wireless personal area network or WPAN, wireless internet connection, and wireless synchronization. It enables a more convenient route for sending and receiving files without the trouble of using wires and hardware interfacing standards such as Universal Serial Bus and Thunderbolt.
Take note that the other applications of wireless connectivity via Bluetooth include wireless or remote control between a device and another compatible device or appliance, real-time location systems for locating and identifying objects within a determined distance, personal security for preventing theft or loss of devices such as smartphones, and in health monitoring, recording, and notifications using enabled medical devices or smart fitness accessories.
2. Extensive Availability and Accessibility
The various applications of Bluetooth demonstrate its extensive and almost universal availability. Most laptops and other mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers come with a built-in Bluetooth hardware. The same is true for other smart devices. A personal computer that does not have the required component built-in can still use this technology using an external adapter that can be plugged in using the built-in Universal Serial Bus port.
Complementary devices have been developed and marketed because Bluetooth has seemingly become a standard feature of modern consumer electronic devices such as laptops and mobile smartphones. Other categories of devices included wireless speakers and headphones, smart devices such as smartwatches and other wearable technologies for monitoring activities, and Bluetooth-enabled smart home appliances and office equipment, among others.
3. Convenience From Ease of Use
Pairing devices with a built-in Bluetooth radio hardware involves a simple and straightforward process. There is no need to install additional software or drivers to establish communication or connection between Bluetooth-enabled devices. There is also no rigorous setup process for two devices to communicate. Pairing devices takes less than a minute. The overall user experience is also considered intuitive because of the simple setup and pairing processes.
The technology simplifies the entire pairing process by making enabled devices discoverable to one another as long as their Bluetooth radios are turned on, and they are within the coverage radius. It also includes the Service Discovery Protocol and Universal Unique Identifier to list down specific services or features of a particular device. These protocols allow another device to determine and display the name and specific device class it intends to pair with.
4. Energy Efficiency
Another advantage of Bluetooth is that it is relatively energy efficient. This promotes further the benefits and convenience that come from wireless data transmission. This is particularly true for the Bluetooth Low Energy or BLE standard. The ultra-low power requirement of BLE makes it ideal for small devices such as wearable devices in which minimal battery capacity and small physical form factor are critical design and engineering considerations.
The newest iterations of the technology called Bluetooth 5.0 and newer versions that include the more specific 5.3 and 5.4 provide better power efficiency than both the previous Bluetooth 3.0 and Bluetooth 4.0 specifications. These iterations feature the same BLE technology and the standard technology found in older specifications. This enables the dual mode feature which takes advantage of energy efficiency and faster data transfer rates.
Limitations: The Disadvantages of Bluetooth
1. Limited Operational Range
A notable disadvantage or limitation of Bluetooth is its limited range which is dependent on the specific class of radio it uses. Enabled devices can only establish and maintain a connection as long as they are within the range limit. Class 1 has a range of 20 to 30 meters for commercial use and up to 100 meters for industrial use cases. Class 2 has a more limited range of up to 10 meters while Class 3 operates within a range of fewer than 10 meters.
The range of this technology is very limited when compared to Wi-Fi. This makes Wi-Fi mode ideal not only for wireless local area networking but also for WPAN. It is still important to note that this technology was designed for short-range wireless communication. It was not intended as a substitute for Wi-Fi. It is also worth noting that Bluetooth has a better range than Near Field Communication or NFC and Radio Frequency or RFID technologies.
2. Can Be Energy Inefficient
The fact remains that Bluetooth requires minimal energy requirement. However, in real-world use cases, it can still drain the batteries of devices, specifically if it remains turned on. Take note that devices such as smartphones and tablets use their batteries for different software processes and keep their hardware components running. An active Bluetooth radio actively maintains a connection with a paired device and scans its surroundings.
It is also important to underscore the fact that energy efficiency is dependent on the specific class of radio. Class 1 radios are more power intensive because they have a wider transmission range of up to 10 meters under 100 megawatts. This makes them suitable for desktop or laptop computers. Class 2 radios transmit at 2.5 megawatts while Class 3 radios transmit at 1 megawatts. Note that longer-range communication requires a higher power draw.
3. Slower Than Other Technologies
Another disadvantage of Bluetooth is its slower data transmission rate and speed when compared to other hardware interfacing technologies. Note that Bluetooth 3.0 and Bluetooth 4.0 versions have a theoretical transmission rate of 24Mbps while Wi-Fi Direct has a data transfer speed of up to 250Mbps. Wired hardware interfaces such as USB 3.0 has a transmission speed of up to 5Gbps while Thunderbolt 3 supports a transfer speed of up to 40Gbps.
The aforementioned disadvantage translates to more specific limitations. For example, Bluetooth would not be ideal for transferring large-sized data or files such as audio-video content or multiple high-resolution images between devices, particularly for time-sensitive use cases. Furthermore, considering its limited range, it is impractical for mid-range to long-range wireless data transmission and persistent longer-range wireless connection
4. Possible Security Vulnerabilities
Bluetooth technology implements numerous security measures to prevent unauthorized access or interception. These include user confidentiality, authentication, and key derivation with custom algorithms. There have been several cases of security breaches still as explored and documented by researchers and media reports. These include the use of malware to hack hardware controls and the Blue Borne exploits that was first reported in September 2017.
Misuse or irresponsible use of Bluetooth-enabled devices and other Bluetooth implements can also increase the security vulnerability of an individual or organization. These include readily allowing random pairings or keeping the radios turned on without using authorization keys. Note that the technology is susceptible to denial-of-service attacks, eavesdropping, man-in-the-middle attacks, message modification, and hardware resource misappropriation.
5. Main Compatibility Issues
The implementation of Bluetooth is based on a standard but compatibility and functionality issues are still common due to a combination of different factors. These include the particular version, drivers, and profiles, among others. It is true that Bluetooth 3.0 and 4.0 are backward compatible with older versions such as Bluetooth 1.0 and Bluetooth 2.0. However, despite this, there are still specific and different instances of incompatibility.
Note that the low-energy standard of Bluetooth 4.0 and higher is incompatible with other classic versions. The features and capabilities of newer versions are also unusable when an equipped device is paired with another device equipped with an older version. Some manufacturers also implement proprietary features but this can create issues when pairing with devices from other manufacturers. Physical obstacles also interfere with signal transmission.