Connections–and the birth of Smart Devices…

To connect. Many years ago I had a colleague (now a dear friend) that loved gadgets as much as I do. We used to spend time talking about how things could and should connect to each other. Not the simple handshake of protocol connection but a secure managed connected.

Bluetooth is an interesting protocol. It does have some issues mostly around the reality of the fact that it is a broadcast protocol. When it is on it is on. Hi-Jacking Bluetooth devices isn’t horribly hard. But it does offer a rapid connect protocol. There are upper limits as to the number of devices you can connect to but for a personal area network Bluetooth is a great starting protocol.

Wi-Fi has much more range and we can expand the security beyond simple Pins. You can have 32 and 64 and more bit passwords. Devices can also move much more data on a Wi-Fi network than over a Bluetooth PAN. As is often the case with great power comes great responsibility. Wi-Fi is more secure than Bluetooth and therefore is able to offer greater range and capacity.

That said it isn’t always the most secure. The reality of Wi-Fi is that everyone wants to connect to it. Sitting in a coffee shop using their Wi-Fi network leaves your computer and therefore everything you are doing open to being attacked.

So the dance begins. Cellular connections are probably the most secure because frankly the cellular companies are charging you to use their service. An easily hacked network hurts them more than it hurts you. The range of Cellular is even greater than Wi-Fi. But with that much more extended range comes the reality of bandwidth. Bandwidth over distance without a way to focus the signal loses bandwidth.

This is why each protocol has found its Niche. It would be nice if Bluetooth would automatically shut down its auto-discover function. You can do that but it takes a little jiggering. Bluetooth creates a PAN or personal area network. Risk it extends about 30 feet from you which means anyone inside that circle can potentially Hi-Jack your phone (or cloning as it is sometimes called).

The other side of a PAN is the number of devices. There is a hard limit on the number of Bluetooth devices (and frankly cellular devices per tower and Wi-Fi connections per router as well) but the Bluetooth is more serious in the short run  as we embark on the reality of Cyber Physical Systems. CPS which encompasses the older named Internet of Things (IoT) and the automation of robotics and other systems changes the potential number of Bluetooth connections you will have. Medical, fitness, car phone, car stereo system, external devices and audio enhancement devices will all connect to your phone. They will splice your Bluetooth bandwidth with handshakes and connections.

Reality says it is the dawn of the age of smart devices. DON’T chatter because you can. Talk when you have something to say. We apply that rule to human communication all the time. Its time smart devices start doing that as well. What is the cost of the power I (as a device) am consuming. If the cost exceeds a threshold I need to go into sleep mode unless the conditions I monitor exceed an emergency threshold.

Smart Devices

  • Monitor the cost and amount of power consumed
  • Pay attention to the information I have, and know when it is in a critical band
  • Learn the network around me, if Bluetooth isn’t available connect to a Wi-Fi mesh. Hyper critical information should have cellular and direct satellite uplink capability as well
  • Communication channels require confirmation (two-way)


Smart Device Designer