Wi-Fi Gets a Boost With New P2P Standard

[qi:gigaom_icon_routers] The Wi-Fi Alliance today issued a new standard to augment Wi-Fi, called Wi-Fi Direct, that turns a Wi-Fi chip into a mini access point. The technology allows your Wi-Fi gadgets to talk to one another without having to get on a network, and enables anything containing a Wi-Fi chip to combine with other WiFi-chip-containing gadgets to create a wireless hotspot. Using it, you couldn’t connect to the web without some form of backhaul connection to the Internet, but you could send files and share data between devices.

Wi-Fi Direct will be available as a software upgrade for existing Wi-Fi devices and incorporated into new ones after the standard is set sometime in the middle of next year. Even if there’s no wireline or 3G connection to get on the web, there are plenty of situations where this will be useful, such as delivering content around the home. Instead of streaming something from my PC to the router, then to my television, with Wi-Fi Direct I could stream something directly from my PC to my TV.

If I wanted to dump the PC entirely, and the software on the devices permit it, I could transfer photos from my WiFi-enabled camera to a friends’ camera or even straight to a digital picture frame without needing to hop on a network. Significantly for me, as someone with only two USB ports on my laptop, putting Wi-Fi Direct into an external hard drive means I could be backing up my computer without ever having to connect it to the drive. Popping Wi-Fi Direct onto a thumb drive enables the transfer of data to a drive without plugging it in.

The standard gives more longevity to Wi-Fi by allowing it to link devices together without the need of a web-connected router (although earlier this week I wrote about how Wi-Fi may also win out over direct connections to the web in favor of devices like the MiFi). It also will threaten other wireless networking standards trying to make it in the home, including Wireless HD, Wi-Gig, Zigbee and even Bluetooth. In the networking world everyone says “Don’t bet against Ethernet.” Well I think that in the wireless world the phrase should be “Don’t bet against Wi-Fi.”