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Wi-Fi Direct Promises Device-to-Device Connectivity

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Wi-Fi Direct, the standard for device-to-device Wi-Fi connections without a traditional network, is finally getting out of the gates officially with the Wi-Fi Alliance certifying the first generation of products today.

The initial devices, mostly laptop mini-cards, are now available and testing is open to new gadgets. With certification reviews taking just a couple of days, we could see a number of new Wi-Fi Direct gadgets available for the holidays, provided manufacturers are prepared to include the standard.

Wi-Fi Direct builds off the old adhoc wireless mode many devices were capable of, but includes more security (WPA2) and makes it easier for users to connect two Wi-Fi enabled devices without having a local network. Existing Wi-Fi devices can be upgraded to Wi-Fi Direct with a firmware upgrade, while many new devices will likely have the standard built right in.

You only need one Wi-Fi Direct device to make a connection, which can act like an access point for one or more Wi-Fi enabled machines. This is going to make it easy for two people to share files between laptops, send print jobs from a camera to a printer or push a video from a handset to another Wi-Fi enabled device. It could also be used for home entertainment networking or multi-player gaming. As Stacey pointed out last year, she could back up her computer on her Wi-Fi Direct-enabled hard drive without ever having to jump on a network. And we could also see more peripherals that connect over Wi-Fi instead of traditional Bluetooth.

This again shows the resilience and flexibility of Wi-Fi, which is being deployed for everything from wider area coverage and cellular network offloading to building personal area networks. As we wrote about earlier, 70 percent of Millennials say they spend four hours a day on Wi-Fi, and believe that this is vital for maintaining relationships.

We’re already seeing companies try to tackle some of the things Wi-Fi Direct addresses. Apple (s aapl) and HP (s hpq) have announced a method for printing on networked printers from iOS and other devices. Apple has also unveiled AirPlay, which allows iOS users to move music from an iOS device to speakers and stereo systems and soon beam video to an Apple TV. Intel (s intc) also released Wireless Display, a way to push your PC content to a TV. But in many cases, the connections are still through an existing wireless network or require an extra piece of hardware such as Intel’s Wireless Display adapter.

With Wi-Fi Direct, we should see more direct solutions that take advantage of the increasing number of embedded Wi-Fi chips. The Wi-Fi Alliance said 82 million Wi-Fi-enabled portable consumer electronics devices and 216 million Wi-Fi handsets will ship this year with 26 percent annual growth projected through 2014.

It remains to be seen how manufacturers implement Wi-Fi Direct. The standard could be limited by manufacturers and wireless carriers, who may be wary of allowing the feature to flourish unfettered. Carriers, for example, could prevent a phone from acting like a Wi-Fi hotspot, something they already do with some Android devices. Let’s hope the major players let Wi-Fi Direct reach its full potential.

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14 Responses to “Wi-Fi Direct Promises Device-to-Device Connectivity”

  1. It has created great amount of excitement among consumers but Is it a new TECHNOLOGY per se which was not there in the WiFi standard?

    So far consumer end wireless devices were being shipped with client or ad hoc mode functionality. Now it will be possible to ship them with AP mode functionality along with legacy client functionalities.

    Some companies have already done it e.g. virtual AP in Windows 7 laptop or MyFi.

    If TECHNOLOGY is defined this way, then be ready to hear when AP feature will be shipped in a car and called as Mobile-Direct.

  2. This ad hoc mode was always in the 802.11 standard. The Wi-Fi Alliance has worked out the squishy parts such as how do you create, find, join, leave and secure a network that is constantly changing.

  3. I can imagine an Eye-Fi SD card in my DSLR camera being able to wireless sync/send photos to my MacBook or iPad while I’m out shooting in the field. With the iPad 3G I would also be able to upload to my blog or flickr.

  4. Glenn Fleishman

    “The initial devices, mostly laptop mini-cards,”: These are reference designs, not shipping hardware intended for consumers. OEMs will design around these reference designs into products.

  5. this will go hand in hand with 3G/4G. as DSL/Cable connection go away in favor of mobile broadband people will still have multiple devices but multiple subscriptions will be unpractical/expensive. so for example laptops with mobile broadband connections will become hotspots for other devices.

    of course the biggest use case will probably be tethering to mobile phones. the carriers can try all they want to stop it but in the end thats the future for the mass market. cable/DSL will be for power users and hard core geeks. everyone else will be using mobile 3G/4G and WIFI will extend it to other devices.

  6. frankyfourfingers

    sounds like a glorified adhoc network. well needed though, i do not see anything about a IEEE standard like you would see with wireless N, bluetooth, etc. I’m sure that would be needed.

    another note, this could replace bluetooth. but it seems they are using the same security measures. never really like them because it takes forever to sync

  7. Really was waiting for such standards to go mainstream. Now I wonder if you can organize a network over such devices in same way SkyPe organizes over its users and make a crowd-sourced network without ISPs and mobile operators :)