Guide

Wireless technology

Personal area networks

Personal area networks (PANs) are short-range wireless networks that work over a range of tens of metres. PANs main role is to eliminate cables that connect devices to peripherals.

Typical PAN technologies include:

  • Cordless products, such as mouse devices and keyboards, that use radio or infrared. These are inexpensive and easy to install and use. Certain products, such as the cordless phone, can have a considerably wider range.
  • Bluetooth, which allows enabled devices such as phones, mobiles, mouse devices, headsets, PCs, printers and keyboards to connect wirelessly within a range of 10 metres. Bluetooth technology is built into some devices, while you can upgrade other models with a Bluetooth card.

What can personal area networks do?

  • Wireless connections between PCs and peripherals can free up floor space, remove unwanted cables and liberate floor plans.
  • Connected Bluetooth devices can automatically synchronise data downloads and uploads, and exchange information.
  • Mobile employees can use Bluetooth-equipped devices to access office-based peripherals such as printers, if these support Bluetooth technology.
  • You can use Bluetooth to wirelessly control equipment and machinery. For example, the engine management system in a car could be Bluetooth-enabled, allowing the service engineer to diagnose and fix faults.
  • PANs can have more interesting applications - for example, attendees at an exhibition could be given PAN-enabled 'smart' badges that could be read wirelessly to control access to the venue and to allow an attendee to pass contact information to exhibitors.

Personal area network (PAN) advantages and disadvantages

  • PANs are efficient, cost-effective and convenient.
  • Some PANs can interact badly with other wireless networking technologies using the same radio bands.
  • Bluetooth networks are relatively secure but have slow data rates.
  • Bluetooth is a short-range solution - tens of metres - and is not suitable for wireless connection over larger distances.

If you need a wider range of networking solutions, see wireless local area networks (LANs).