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 ten metres. Bluetooth technology is built into some devices, while you can upgrade other models with a Bluetooth card.

What can personal area networks do?

PANs have many useful business applications:

  • 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 - 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).