Bluetooth vs NFC

What is Bluetooth?

Bluetooth is a standard which allows contactless transmission of data between devices by radio. Bluetooth devices can be connected easily without the need of interfering cables. The connection of Bluetooth devices is also called Pairing.

What is Bluetooth used for?

Typical Bluetooth devices are notebooks, smartphones and their accessories (e.g. headsets, speakers, keyboards and mice). Pairing allows to establish connections between devices without the hassle of cables. This is especially practical, because Bluetooth provides the world with a uniform standard for the connection of devices. Cables however are not unified, as many devices are only compatible with a specific cable type of their manufacturer.

Examples for typical Bluetooth applications

  • Notebooks can be controlled with mouse and keyboard wirelessly.
  • Smartphones can send a request to play a specific playlist to a Bluetooth headset.
  • Any files can be transmitted from one smartphone to another without an USB connection.
  • Calls can be forwarded from a smartphone to a Bluetooth headset.

How does Pairing of devices work?

All Bluetooth devices contain a microchip which is able to send and receive data. Moreover, every Bluetooth device can be clearly identified via a unique serial number. Once Bluetooth is activated devices switch in a so called ready mode and scan their environment to detect other Bluetooth devices. The user is informed about the results of the environment scan and can initiate a connection to found devices. During the first connection establishment a PIN entry is requested to confirm the connection process. After a first connection has been established, the corresponding device can be classified as trustworthy. This way, a future connection will be established automatically once the device is within reach.   

What is the difference between Bluetooth and NFC?

Reach

Both Bluetooth and NFC are transmission standards for contactless data exchange via radio. However, there are several differences between these two technologies. The most important difference is their reach. While Bluetooth devices can communicate with each other over distances of 10-100 m, a NFC connection can only be established via very short distances (1-4 cm).

Application

As NFC was originally developed for a very different area of application, the shorter reach of NFC shouldn’t be interpreted as disadvantage. NFC was developed with the aim to enable contactless payments in a secure and easy way. For this application, it is actually an advantage that payment information can only be transmitted via very short distances. This way, it is ensured that a customer doesn’t pay unintentionally by standing somewhere next to a POS terminal. In contrast, Bluetooth was developed as a wireless alternative to the connection of devices via cables. For this application, a much higher reach is required as devices are usually located more than 1-4 cm apart from each other.

Radio frequency

While NFC transmitters always communicate via a specific radio frequency (13.56 kHz), Bluetooth devices make use of so called frequency hopping. As the number of Bluetooth devices is increasing continuously, communication via the same frequency would result in signal interruptions. Frequency hopping increases the stability of Bluetooth connections, because these interruptions can be avoided by switching to another frequency.

Summarized:

  • While Bluetooth connections can be established via 10-100 m depending on device, NFC connections only function via very short distances (1-4 cm).
  • Whereas NFC was originally developed as a secure transmission standard for contactless payment systems, Bluetooth was supposed to be a uniform alternative to cable connections.
  • NFC transmitters only communicate via one specific radio frequency (13.56 kHz). Bluetooth devices however utilize frequency hopping to avoid connection failures.

Further information

Wikipedia entry on Near Field Communication

Wikipedia entry on Bluetooth

Erstellt: 2017-02-16 / Aktualisiert: 2017-05-24 2017-02-16 2017-05-24