Wireless Keyboards: Typing Your Way Into the Future

by Karen Hendry on December 7, 2016 in Wireless

Everything is wireless these days, including computer keyboards, which is great because wireless means no cable clutter. Granted, many people work on laptop computers and other mobile devices, but in all honesty, using a full-size keyboard is much more convenient than using the smaller one that comes with the device, especially if you do a lot of typing. But there is more to the wireless keyboard than meets the eye. Let’s start with the benefits of such a device.

wireless-keyboard

Benefits of Wireless Keyboards

Fortunately, wireless technology has come a long way in the last few years and wireless keyboards come with a host of benefits you can’t get with their wired equivalents, including the following:

  • Tidier: As mentioned above, the fewer cords and wires the better, and with a wireless keyboard that is one less cord you have to worry about. If you go wireless with your other computer equipment, you can have one tidy desk area.
  • Portable: Whether you are packing up your keyboard to take it with you or you simply want to sit somewhere other than your desk, a wireless keyboard makes it easy. There is no cord to wrap up when packing it away and it is easy to pull out in a coffee shop or an airport waiting area. Even when you’re at home, you can easily sit somewhere comfortable and still type on your computer. Think of hooking up your computer to your TV. With a wireless keyboard, you can sit on the sofa and type. Add a wireless mouse and you are all set.
  • Use fewer ports: Take a look at your desktop, laptop, or other devices and you will see a limited number of USB ports, which is how a wired keyboard would plug into your computer or laptop. The thing is so many other things plug into your computer via the USB ports. When you have a wireless keyboard (the kind that doesn’t connect via a USB dongle), that is one less piece of equipment that will take up a USB port, meaning you have the space to plug one more thing into your computer.
  • Universality: Wireless keyboards are just as universal as the wired version. You can use it with your desktop computer, then switch it over to your laptop or mobile device with ease or lend it to someone else to use on their computer. One keyboard fits all!

Types of Wireless Keyboards

There are two ways to distinguish a wireless keyboard—by its method of connection and by its style or appearance. When it comes to the connection it makes with your computer, this can be accomplished in various ways. Wireless keyboard types include:

  • RF: RF (radio frequency) wireless keyboards are keyboards that communicate with a little dongle that plugs into a USB port on your computer. This is the most common type of wireless keyboard used and can be used with virtually any computer, laptop, or other device that has a USB port. This type of keyboard also works over a long range.
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth keyboards are newer on the market, and while growing in popularity, cannot be used with older devices that are not Bluetooth enabled. Bluetooth keyboards work over a shorter range than their RF equivalents, but the connection is solid and you don’t need a USB port to use it.
  • Infrared: Some wireless keyboards operate via infrared, much like a television remote control. However, this is not a popular type of keyboard connection because it must have an unbroken line of sight for the Infrared light beam to pass form the keyboard to the computer.
  • Projection: This is a clever type of keyboard that uses a light projector to transmit an image of a keyboard onto a surface. The user can then type on the projected keyboard and their finger strokes are picked up based on the pattern of breaks in the projector’s beam of light. The only physical equipment with this type of keyboard is the projector, which is very compact, making it a great travel keyboard.

Another great benefit of wireless keyboards is that there are a number of different styles so you can choose one that suits your needs. Here are the various styles of wireless keyboards:

  • Standard: This is just like any regular, wired keyboard, without bells and whistles.
  • Ergonomic: Wireless keyboards can easily be found that are designed for the best ergonomic support, just as their wired cousins.
  • Slim: Slim and ultra-slim wireless keyboards are light and more compact, making them easy to carry.
  • Mini: This is a small wireless keyboard that easily fits in the palm of your hand.
  • Foldable/Rollable: There are a number of brands that sell wireless keyboards that either fold on hinges or are silicon-based and roll up to become more compact.

Aside from the above, wireless keyboards can offer any combination of the following:

  • Spill-proof and washable
  • USB ports: Yes, USB ports on your keyboard will make it possible to set up additional devices that will communicate with your computer without the need for their own dongles.
  • Profiling: To set macros for specific functionalities, such as MS Word or gaming.
  • Polling rate: To measure the rate at which the keyboard communicates with the computer, which is extremely advantageous for gamers, who need a keyboard that offers a high polling rate.
  • Anti-ghosting: To ensure that all keys strokes are registered, regardless of the typing speed.
  • Backlighting: Really, this just gives your computer setup a great aesthetic appeal.

Vulnerabilities

You might be wondering how a wireless keyboard could possibly have any vulnerabilities, at least aside from the risk of being dropped on the floor or having something spilled on them. Unfortunately, as a wireless device, wireless keyboards are vulnerable to hackers—at least, the RF keyboards are. Since the RF wireless keyboards operate on a radio frequency, any hacker within 250 feet can gain access to an RF keyboard.

According to Wired, the security company Bastille has uncovered the vulnerability of some cheaper wireless keyboards and their RF dongles. Essentially, these keyboards can be hacked because they don’t have any wireless encryption. Anyone within range who knows how to hack into your keyboard can do so and then perform keystrokes on your keyboard, allowing them to take control of it (if they know the code to do so) and implant malware onto your device. This access to your keyboard also gives hackers the ability to read the keystrokes you are making, which leaves you vulnerable to giving up sensitive information, such as passwords and credit card numbers, without even knowing it. Bastille has created a list of the vulnerable keyboards.

CSO reports that Bastille has also revealed it is as easy as a hacker leaving a hidden relay device in an area to have constant access to a keyboard’s transmissions without having to stay in the immediate area. Having said this, most brands have ensured their keyboards are properly encrypted to allow the safe use of wireless keyboards no matter where you use them. Speaking of wireless keyboard brands, what are the top ones? PCWorld has the latest word on the top wireless keyboards and their top choice is the IOGEAR Quietus RF Desktop.

The Future of Wireless Keyboards

The wireless keyboard is a great thing and it has a bright future. Bluetooth technology is taking wireless by storm, allowing the wireless keyboard to connect not only to desktops and laptops, but also mobile devices such as tablets and phones. One of the newest Bluetooth keyboards is the Portable Bluetooth Foldable Wireless Keyboard, which is being offered by Amazon. This brings Bluetooth technology and extreme compatibility and portability together in one device.

Another development in wireless keyboards is the touch-sensitive keyboard, developed by Cleankeys. This keyboard is designed with a glass surface to be used in hospital environments because it is easy to keep clean and sanitary. It is easy to see this type of tech being used in other environments in which cleanliness is imperative, such as in schools and public libraries.

But the future of the wireless keyboard might not actually involve a keyboard at all. Instead, it might involve wearable technology, which isn’t a great surprise considering the wearable technology market is estimated to be worth over $31 billion by 2020. Bloomberg Technology reports that Ran Poliakine, who created the PowerMat, has introduced the latest in typing technology with his Tap Systems.

The tech can be worn on one hand and allows the user to type anything without having to type on an actual keyboard. Tap Systems has been programmed to interpret 31 different finger taps and translate those taps into individual letters and numbers. These taps can be performed on any available surface, allowing the user to easily communicate with and type information into their mobile device no matter where they are. Of course, people will need to learn the taps, but the creators have designed a game to make this learning fun.

It is apparent that wireless technology is all around us and with the development of the Internet of Things, that tech is only going to become more a part of our daily lives. The development of wireless keyboards is just the beginning of the wireless keyboard revolution, but thankfully, you can use the wireless technology now to begin transforming your online experience, whether you are sitting at your desk or you are on the move.

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