Short-Range Wireless Connectivity: A Complementary Comparison
by Puneet Gupta
Communication between various devices makes it possible to provide unique and innovative services. Although this inter-device
communication is a very powerful mechanism, it is also a complex and clumsy mechanism, leading to a lot of complexity in the
present day systems. This makes networking not only difficult but limits its flexibility as well.
Many standards exist today for connecting various devices. At the same time, every device has to support more than one standard to make it
inter-operable between different devices. Take the example of setting up a network in offices. Right now, entire office buildings
have to make provisions for lengths of cable that stretch kilometers through conduits in the walls, floors and ceilings, to workers' desks.
In the last few years, many wireless connectivity standards/technologies have emerged. These technologies enable users to
connect a wide range of computing and telecommunications devices easily and simply, without the need to buy, carry, or connect
cables. These technologies deliver opportunities for rapid ad hoc connections, and the possibility of automatic, unconscious,
connections between devices. They will virtually eliminate the need to purchase additional or proprietary cabling to connect
individual devices, thus creating the possibility of using mobile data in a variety of applications. Wired LANs have been very
successful in the last few years and now with the help of these wireless connectivity technologies, wireless LANs (WLAN) have
started emerging as a much more powerful and flexible alternatives to the wired LANs. Until a year ago, the speed of the WLAN was
limited to 2 Mbps but with the introduction of these new standards, we are seeing WLANs that can support upto 11 Mbps in the ISM band.
There are many such technologies/standards and notable among them are Bluetooth, IrDA, Home RF and IEEE 802.11. These technologies
compete in certain fronts and are complementary in other areas. So, given the fact that so many technologies exist, which technology
is the best and which solution should one select for a specific application? To be able to understand this, we need to look at the
strengths and weaknesses and also the application domains of each of these standards/technologies. The premise behind all these
standards is to use some kind of underlying radio technology to enable wireless transmission of data, and to provide support for
formation of networks and managing various devices by means of high level software. Bluetooth, though quite new, has emerged as
the forerunner in this so-called "battle between competing technologies" with the kind of support it is getting from all
sections of the industry. However, it must be kept in mind that the viability of a technology depends on the application context,
as I'll try to bring about later in this article.