A Bluetooth® dongle is a small computer peripheral or computer accessory that allows a computer to link wirelessly to other devices. Such dongles can link a computer with another computer, cellular phone, printer, or digital camera that also sport such dongles or have Bluetooth® chips installed.
Every Bluetooth® dongle houses a small Bluetooth® microchip that enables it to connect and exchange data with other dongles and other devices also containing such microchips. Bluetooth® dongles attach to one of the universal serial bus (USB) ports of a computer. Just like other computer peripherals that connect to computers via USB, these dongles are powered by the computer itself, and are deactivated once disconnected.
Bluetooth® connections allow for up to 1 megabyte per second (MBps) of data to be streamed back and forth between linked devices. The type of data that can be transmitted between devices depends on the devices' Bluetooth® profile, which specifies the limitations of each type of device. For instance, Bluetooth® headsets are limited to transmitting and receiving sound data from their source, whether it be a cellular phone or computer.
A Bluetooth® connection may be established between more than two devices at once. When many Bluetooth® devices are activated within one area, whether they be fixed or mobile, that network is referred to as a personal area network or PAN. A PAN's size is dependent on the power class of the connected devices' microchips; these devices may have a maximum range of 1 meter, 10 meters, or 100 meters (about 3, 33, or 330 feet).
In the past, there wasn't a single accepted overarching standard or protocol. As a result, the existence of multiple connectivity technologies and standards made it very hard for devices to synchronize wirelessly. To overcome these problems, the Bluetooth® protocol was created by a consortium of concerned companies in the consumer electronics, computing and telecommunications industries. To facilitate Bluetooth®'s introduction into the market, the consortium members designed Bluetooth® chips to be simple and small, and to require little power to operate as well. This has made it possible to design a relatively small Bluetooth® dongle and sell it rather cheaply.
Bluetooth® dongles are “plug and play” compatible with computers running Macintosh and Windows operating systems, as well as most computers that also run the Linux operating system. Users need do little more than plug the dongle into a free USB port and activate it; no software installation is necessary to allow the computer to activate the Bluetooth® dongle.