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What is a Bluetooth® Adapter?

By Carol Francois
Updated May 16, 2024
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Bluetooth® is the brand name of a communications technology designed for short range use, connecting electronic devices without the use of wires or cables. The actual Bluetooth® adapter can be built into an electronic product, or purchased separately. A stand-alone Bluetooth® adapter is a USB key that has the hardware and software necessary to communicate with other Bluetooth® devices.

Bluetooth® technology was created to act as a universally accepted platform for interconnection of wireless devices. Each Bluetooth® adapter must meet a very specific criterion for use of the name. Bluetooth® technology allows any device to connect to any other device, regardless of the product manufacture.

Using Bluetooth®, each device can communicate with up to 7 other devices simultaneously, using short range, piconets or ad hoc networks. Every Bluetooth® adapter can be a member of more than one piconets, with the ad hoc networks themselves being automatically created, based on the proximity to other devices.

Bluetooth® communication is based on the utilization of the ISM (industrial, scientific, medical) band 2.4 to 2.485 GHz with a spread spectrum. The technology is designed to automatically hop frequencies, using full duplex signals at a 1600 hops/sec nominal rate.

The hopping capacity was created to deal with interference with wireless or Wi-Fi signals. A Bluetooth® adapter uses a set logic to evaluate all the signal frequencies in use within the local range and select an unused frequency. The hoping setting allows the tool to ensure a high quality and secure connection by frequent signal switching as needed.

Bluetooth® is only useful if you have more than one device that is Bluetooth® compatible. The advantage is in the connecting and communication technology between devices. To test the connectivity available with a Bluetooth® adapter, check your electronic devices to determine which ones have a built in Bluetooth® adapter, or purchase a stand-alone version from your local electronic store.

Plug the Bluetooth® adapter into the USB slot on your laptop or desktop computer. Have another Bluetooth® device nearby and turned on. Go to the Bluetooth® section of each device and turn on the "connection" or "discover" mode.

The two devices will locate each other. They will ask for a "pairing key" to allow the connection to be secure. Look in your owners manual for this 4-6 digit code. Enter the pairing key and wait for the message "pairing successful." Congratulations! You have now activated a Bluetooth® connection.

When pairing a Bluetooth® adapter, remember that these devices are not programmed to use the same channel for communications, clock and hopping sequence. This technology is what allows the communication to remain secure. Paired devices hop to the next channel together. The first pairing is referred to as the master of the piconet and all the connecting devices are slaves.

Bluetooth® communication devices transmit data at 3 Mbps with version 2.0 + EDR (enhanced data rate) devices and 1 Mbps using version 1.2. EDR increases the number of possible connections and the support with increased processing and lower power utilization.

Bluetooth® itself is not one company, but an association of electronic manufactures who came together to create the technical specifications for a common communication method between devices, create and manage the brand and increase the utilization within consumer products.

The actual name is taken from the 10th century Danish king names King Harold Bluetooth. He was a critical factor in joining the warring factions of Norway, Sweden and Denmark into their current form. The same concept was used to inspire the different industry leaders to collaborate for the greater benefit.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Terrificli — On Mar 23, 2014

One thing to keep in mind is that a Bluetooth adapter -- frequently called a Bluetooth dongle -- is dirt cheap. Most operating systems have Bluetooth connectivity built in, so using a dongle is as simple as plugging it into a USB port and letting the system identify the hardware.

Of course, those dongles may be obsolete very soon. Most computers -- especially mobile ones -- have Bluetooth hardware built into them.

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