RealTime IT News

New Wi-Fi Direct Spec Syncs Up Devices

The Wi-Fi Alliance plans to unveil a new specification today designed to let devices connect directly to each other using the popular networking technology.

The proposed Wi-Fi Direct specification is almost complete, and the industry-supported Wi-Fi Alliance, said it expects to begin certifying devices around the middle of next year.

"We hope it will redefine Wi-Fi for some and the personal area network for many," Wi-Fi alliance Executive Director Edgar Figueroa told InternetNews.com. "It's a new way to connect directly, device to device."

Wi-Fi Direct can be implemented in any Wi-Fi-enabled device, including mobile phones, cameras, printers and notebook computers, as well as human interface devices such as keyboards and headphones. Devices will be able to make a one-to-one connection, or a group of several devices can connect simultaneously. Certified current or legacy Wi-Fi devices will also be able to connect through Wi-Fi Direct.

Figueroa said he's seen prototype demonstrations of Wi-Fi Direct in action, including a laptop running a presentation on a projector with no need for cables (both projector and laptop had Wi-Fi embedded chips).

"Or imagine if you are visiting a company and want to leave behind [a] hard copy of something you were showing. You could send right to a Wi-Fi-enabled printer without any USB cables or having to join the company's network, which they might not want anyway," he said.

And while today users can see if they have a Wi-Fi connection on their notebook, Figueroa said Wi-Fi Direct (developed under the codename Wi-Fi peer-to-peer) will be more detailed. "It will show you all the devices you can connect to and what they can do, such as a mouse, HDTV and other laptops," he said.

Going after Bluetooth?

Analyst Roger Kay said the new spec sounds intriguing and useful, but he wonders about positioning.

"It sounds to me like they're going after Bluetooth," Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates, told InternetNews.com.

But Figueroa maintained that Wi-Fi Direct isn't looking to compete with other technologies.

"Wi-Fi Direct is a technology specifically designed to build on all the Wi-Fi characteristics that make Wi-Fi so popular, while addressing a range of new use cases and scenarios for which it is uniquely positioned," he said in an e-mail. "It is without peer, and so it isn't designed to replace any other technology, but to make the hundreds of millions of Wi-Fi-enabled devices that ship each year even more convenient and useful, and to continue Wi-Fi's rapid growth into new markets and device types."

Products that incorporate the new Wi-Fi Direct standard are expected to hit the market by mid-2010, but Figueroa stressed the spec also builds on current and earlier Wi-Fi releases. Notebook vendors, for example, could offer a Wi-Fi Direct software upgrade.

"This could potentially enhance the value of everything you have in your Wi-Fi network today," said Figueroa. "And it's [an] alternative to USB cables and the range of other cables people don't appreciate having to deal with."

He said Wi-Fi Direct has the support of a cross section of member companies in the Wi-Fi Alliance, including chipset vendors, networking, handset and mobile providers.

"Empowering devices to move content and share applications without having to join a network brings even more convenience and utility to Wi-Fi-enabled devices," In-Stat analyst Victoria Fodale said in a statement.

Figueroa said there will be demonstrations of a range of Wi-Fi Direct-enabled devices at the Consumer Electronics Association's CES trade show in Las Vegas in January.