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What Is an Infrared Port?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2016
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An infrared port is a port on an electronic device that sends and receives information via infrared light. Such ports were once widely used on wireless devices to enable rapid and easy communication with networked devices, base stations, and other equipment. They have been largely replaced by radio frequency (RF) technology because it is more powerful and flexible. Older systems may have infrared ports installed, and they can also be seen on devices like television remotes.

If a device has an infrared port, it is typically easy to identify. A small bubble or screen of transparent material covers the port, allowing it to transmit and receive data. When it is active, it may light up with visible light as well as infrared, to alert the user to the fact that it is in operation. The device should also have an options menu for the port, to allow the operator to change the settings, turn the port off, and troubleshoot, if necessary.

There are two main drawbacks to using an infrared port, both of which ultimately led to decisions to replace the technology with RF. The first is the line of sight restriction. The port will only function when it is within the line of sight of the target device, as people may have noticed when attempting to change the channel from an odd angle just outside the range of the television's receiver. The second issue is the short range, which significantly limits functionality.

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Laptops, personal digital assistants, cellphones, and devices like calculators often had infrared ports to allow them to exchange data with networked devices. As the drawbacks of infrared port technology became more apparent, companies began to develop more affordable and functional RF communication. RF allows for activities like transmitting through walls or across significant distances, and can be more functional for the user, especially in an environment where most devices use RF to communicate.

It is possible to install an infrared port, if one is desired, with the use of a dongle that plugs into the equipment. Conversely, on some devices that communicate via infrared, a dongle can provide RF transmission capability. This can allow people to continue using preferred devices with an upgraded method of data exchange to make their work easier. Such dongles are available from electronics stores, particularly those that specialize in mobile devices. They may also be purchased through a manufacturer, as many manufacturers make accessories and support supplies for their products.

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