RealTime IT News

Wi-Fi Direct Already Has an Audience

The Wi-Fi Alliance has gathered more ammunition in support of the coming Wi-Fi Direct specification set for availability around the middle of this year. An array of vendors will be demonstrating solutions based on the Wi-Fi Direct at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this week, including Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) and Broadcom (NASDAQ: BRCM), which promises to let consumers easily network any number of devices wirelessly, including keyboards, headphones, video projectors, displays and even cell phones.

"The only limit is your imagination," said Sarah Morris, a senior marketing manager with the Wi-Fi Alliance, the industry trade group that develops the Wi-Fi specification. "At CES you'll see technology demonstrations of Wi-Fi Direct running on a laptop linked to a camera and external display and a cell phone, all with a persistent connection."

The Wi-Fi Direct specification is being tested and tuned by Wi-Fi Alliance member companies who are also developing a "Wi-Fi CERTIFIED" certification for the software upgrade. Wi-Fi Direct is not new hardware, but a software upgrade compatible with existing Wi-Fi devices based on the 802.11a/b/g/n standards. Wi-Fi Direct will include "simple Wi-Fi Protected Setup" methods to connect devices and enable security protections.

"This isn't constrained by hardware development cycles," Morris told InternetNews.com. "It rides over the baseline capability of certified Wi-Fi chipsets. There's been a great deal of interest, probably one of the largest task groups we've had and there's a strong perception of market interest and opportunity."

Recent shipment data released by In-Stat indicates that more than 475 million Wi-Fi chipsets were shipped in 2009. The research company predicts that shipments of Wi-Fi chipsets for consumer electronics devices will grow more than 25 percent each of the next four years.

The Wi-Fi Alliance noted that consumer electronics (CE) was a big area of growth for Wi-Fi certification, with an increase of 128 percent over 2008. Within CE, televisions and digital video recorder/player devices saw the most growth.

Consumers like the idea

In a just-released survey of thousand U.S. consumers over the age of 18, 74 percent of respondents said they were interested in Wi-Fi-enabled speakers to play music throughout a home, and 74 percent also said they would like to use the technology to watch movies or television on any screen in the house.

Seventy-one percent of respondents reported interest in wirelessly connecting quickly and directly to a printer without having to join a network and 54 percent wanted the ability to use Wi-Fi to sync a portable audio player to a music library without use of cables or a docking station.

Consumers were also polled specifically on the forthcoming Wi-Fi Direct technology, which will enable electronics, handsets and notebooks to connect directly to one another without using an access point or requiring an Internet connection.

When given a description of Wi-Fi Direct, 79 percent of respondents reported that they were interested in seeing Wi-Fi Direct technology incorporated into new devices.

Sixty percent agreed that Wi-Fi Direct represents a "more amazing invention than digital television that delivers hundreds of channels to your home."

About half of the respondents (44 percent) estimated it would take them more than 30 minutes to display digital photos on a television screen today, 68 percent stated they would be interested in doing so "with little more than the push of a button."