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  • July 26, 2014

The Social Scene: Hands-Free Technology - Ladue News: Business & Wealth

The Social Scene: Hands-Free Technology

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Posted: Thursday, May 22, 2014 12:00 pm

Whether it is telephones, tablets, media players, robotics systems, high-definition headsets and others, Bluetooth technology is everywhere.

As a native Scandinavian, I have a lot to be proud of when it comes to hands-free talking—especially what’s called Bluetooth technology. The Swedish company Ericson invented this technology in 1994 and named it after a Danish/Norwegian Viking, Harald Bluetooth; and a logo was created that is a stylish interpretation of Harald Bluetooth’s initials.

So, what is Bluetooth? It’s a wireless technology to allow communication—via radio transmission, between mobile and mobile, as well as between mobile and fixed devices when the distances between them are short.

The technology is a combination of hardware and software. When someone says a product contains Bluetooth, that means it includes a small computer chip containing the Bluetooth radio. But it also needs software to connect, via Bluetooth wireless technology, to other products.

USES:

What we are primarily discussing here is the use of Bluetooth as a means to talk hands-free on your mobile device while driving, for instance. However, before we delve into that, you should know that Bluetooth can be used in many other situations such as to control, among many other things: medical devices, fitness exercise equipment, intercom systems, regular PCs (in small spaces), and game consoles.

TWO APPLICATIONS WORTH MENTIONING

• What if I lose my expensive smart phone? If the phone is Bluetooth-enabled, using Bluetooth technology may be a way of tracking your stolen or misplaced phone.

• When it’s really cold outside and you have been away for the weekend, you don’t want to come home to a cold house. With Bluetooth technology, you can control your thermostat on your way home, and make it warm and toasty by the time you get there.

HANDS-FREE

When industry experts list features that should be standard in new vehicles, Bluetooth consistently ranks No. 1. In the old days—that is, a few years ago—installing Bluetooth technology in your vehicle was a ‘special-order’ process, worth time and money. Today, many modern cars come standard with Bluetooth technology, with the main purpose of enabling hands-free cell-phone usage.

Of course, there is a controversy on whether hands-free talking while driving is any less dangerous than just plain old talking on your device. Does the fact that you are hands-free offer less distraction? In some other countries, like the United Kingdom, all hands-free and non-hands-free cell phone talking while driving is outlawed. The controversy in this country will most likely continue for a while.

There also are technical constrictions with hands-free usage. If you ever have been distracted by noises or echo effects in your regular cell phone, just imagine the hands-free phones while driving! Traffic noise, other passengers’ voices and much more can reduce the clarity of your conversation. Technology research strives to reduce noise and echo in hands-free devices.

If you must talk on the phone while driving, hands-free talking obviously is the right choice. Many professionals, who are out on the road every day all day, may not have the time to follow the common-sense advice: If you must talk on the phone, stop your vehicle, drive to a safe space, and then make your call. Of course, that is the ideal—and in many states, the only legal—solution.

Longtime computer trainer, writer and editor Richard Gavatin can be reached at richardjrgavatin@gmail.com.

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