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What is a Wireless Device?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
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A wireless device can refer to any kind of communications equipment that does not require a physical wire for relaying information to another device. Wireless headphones fitted with a receiver use either radio frequency (RF) or infrared technology to communicate with a transmitter that is connected to the sound source, say a television. In most cases, however, when someone refers to a wireless device, they are speaking of a networking device that can pass data to other wireless network gear without being physically connected.

In today's world, where people put a premium on staying connected to the Internet and to each other, there are several types of wireless technologies. In the home and office, wireless routers with built-in modems, hubs and switches broadcast a local area network (LAN) for computers in the area to join. Broadcasting distance varies widely depending on many factors, but a LAN generally spans 300 feet (91.44 m) or more. Any computer on the network can share resources that are connected to the network, including a high-speed Internet connection, printer or other office equipment.

In order to join a wireless LAN (WLAN), a computer must have a wireless network card or adapter installed. A network card is an internal wireless device manufactured to use the same language or protocol that wireless routers use. These protocols periodically evolve into new standards, however, causing compatibility issues in the interim. If a router uses a protocol that is not supported by an internal wireless device, an external wireless adapter can be used in an external port. The most common type is a USB dongle, but wireless network adapters are also available in ExpressCard® formats, giving laptop users a choice as to which port they would rather use.

Another type of wireless device might be part of a Personal Area Network (PAN). A PAN is created with Bluetooth® technology, designed to connect personal digital devices over very short distances of just a few feet, though the standard extends to 30 feet (9.14 m).

Bluetooth® is a very flexible and convenient type of network. It can be used to send print jobs from a laptop to a nearby printer without the hassle of setting up shared resources over a LAN. It is also used to connect Bluetooth®-enabled cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), or Apple products to each other or to other Bluetooth®-enabled equipment including headsets, external speakers, or computers. Since Bluetooth® uses a different frequency range than LANs, you can use a Bluetooth® network "within" a LAN without interference.

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Discussion Comments
By popcorn — On May 08, 2011

There has been a lot of concern about whether or not the radio frequency in these wireless devices adversely impacts people's health or not.

With the example of WiFi being used to connect computers, alongside everyone having a cell phone and Bluetooth items on them, people are starting to complain that they get severe headaches from the technology and some people even say that it causes symptoms like nausea and lightheadedness.

Do you think that these concerns are just scaremongering or should we generally be worried about the amount of radio waves and infrared signals that we are exposing ourselves to?

By MrSmirnov — On May 06, 2011

I think that wireless devices have made our lives a lot easier and have helped people to be more organized. I remember that my home office used to be a disaster of tangled cables and I was always tripping over them, or unable to find the right one to use.

Some great wireless devices that I think all offices should invest in are wireless printers and keyboards for computers, wireless headphones with microphones enabled for calls, and a wireless printer that can accept signals through either WiFi or Bluetooth.

These simple modifications to your office make everything look less cluttered and help everyone to stay organized.

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