A personal area network (PAN) is a computer network that connects electronic devices with one another in an individual’s workspace. That network can include a laptop, a mouse, a printer, and other devices a person may need for work or play.

You can use a PAN to make your devices communicate with one another or connect to a much more extensive network, such as your home network to include your smart refrigerator and other appliances, and the Internet.

Read More about a Personal Area Network

Like any other computer network, a PAN can come in two general forms—wired or wireless.

How Does a Wired Personal Area Network Work?

A wired PAN typically requires cables to connect various electronic devices. These wires are generally plugged into the USB ports built into each connection- or networking-capable system.

Wired personal area network

How Does a Wireless Personal Area Network Work?

While a wireless PAN doesn’t require cables, it does require that all devices you wish to connect to a network be Bluetooth- or infrared-capable.

Wireless personal area network

A smartphone is a typical example of a Bluetooth-ready device users typically connect to a PAN. TV and air-con remote controls, meanwhile, are widely used infrared-capable devices.

How Did the Concept of a Personal Area Network Come About?

Thomas Zimmerman and other researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab are considered the developers of the concept of PAN.

In 1989, Ericsson Mobile developed what they dubbed “short-link” radio technology to connect wireless headphones to other devices.

By 1997, Intel repurposed the short-link radio technology and dubbed it “Bluetooth,” a means to make phones communicate with computers.

What Are the Real-World Applications of a Personal Area Network?

A PAN is very useful in homes, offices, and small network areas because of its flexibility and efficiency. It can vary in size from a few centimeters to several meters.

PANs are useful for:

  • Homes, specifically workspaces: You can connect your computer to a printer even if they aren’t in the same room.
  • Healthcare centers and hospitals: You can connect all computers to the database that holds all patients’ electronic health records (EHRs), so you can readily access them anywhere in the hospital.
  • Schools: You can connect the library computers to the database so multiple users can look for the books they need.
  • Companies: You can connect all computers to shared printers, so you don’t have to give each employee a printer.

What Are the Benefits of Using a Personal Area Network?

A PAN makes connected devices (e.g., your smartphone) readily accessible (e.g., from your laptop) even if they may be out of reach (e.g., in another room). Here’s a list of a PAN’s benefits.

  • Cost-effective: A wireless PAN doesn’t require expensive installation or cable connection between devices, making it less costly than a conventional network.
  • Easy to set up: A PAN doesn’t require complex setup since it doesn’t use a server or a router. You don’t even need much technical know-how to resolve issues.
  • Data protection: A PAN is more secure than other networks since each device requires authorization before obtaining access to data.
  • Minimal storage: Bluetooth and similar PAN technologies can transfer data across connected devices while occupying minimal space.
  • Stability: A PAN is more dependable than networks with a more extensive reach because it doesn’t depend on servers and only works within a limited range.
  • Concurrent multiple connections: You can simultaneously connect one device (e.g., your smartphone) to as many devices as you want.

Does the Use of a Personal Area Network Have Disadvantages?

Like all connection technologies, PANs also have downsides, including:

  • Restricted data transfer rate: Technologies like Bluetooth can’t transport large volumes of data across several devices at rapid rates.
  • Small network coverage or range: A PAN can only send data within a range of around 10 meters. It can also have a limited number of linked devices.
  • Interference with radio signals: The data transmitted over a PAN is susceptible to loss because radio frequencies in the vicinity may affect it.
  • Incompatibility: Not all devices are PAN connection-ready (e.g., not Bluetooth-capable).
  • Cost: Wireless PAN-ready devices can be expensive.

PANs can make working at home or in offices less time-consuming and sometimes even effortless.

Key Takeaways

  • A PAN is a computer network that connects electronic devices with one another in an individual’s workspace.
  • A PAN can either be wired or wireless.
  • PANs are typically used in homes, specifically workspaces; healthcare centers and hospitals; schools; companies; and government institutions.
  • The benefits of using a PAN include cost effectiveness, easy setup, data protection, minimal storage requirements, stability, and the capability to support multiple concurrent connections.
  • The disadvantages of using a PAN, meanwhile, include data transfer rate restrictions, small network coverage or range, radio signal interference, device incompatibility, and high device cost.