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WiFi goes peer-to-peer

Oct 15, 2009 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

The WiFi Alliance says it is working on a specification that will allow devices to connect to one another directly, without the assistance of a router. “WiFi Direct” will be published “upon completion” and certification of devices will begin in 2010, the organization says.

Previously code-named "WiFi peer-to-peer," WiFi Direct is intended to let any WiFi-equipped device — a notebook computer, smartphone, camera, PMP (personal media player), or printer, for example — connect directly to any other in order to transfer data. Presently, wireless local area networking typically requires the use of an AP (access point), which establishes an SSID (service set identifier) and moderates the traffic to and from all connected devices.

According to the Alliance, WiFi Direct will support the same data rates and transmission ranges as previous WiFi networks. It's said that devices will be able to make one-to-one connections or join a group that includes several different devices. Because the spec will include WPA2 security and management features for enterprise networks, it will not compromise corporate networks, the organization further promises.

Significantly, devices that have been certified for WiFi Direct will also be able to create connections with any of the hundreds of millions of 802.11x devices that are already in use, the Alliance says. Whether WiFi Direct certification will require hardware modifications, or merely testing of existing devices, was not made clear, however.

WiFi Alliance executive director Edgar Figueroa stated, "WiFi Direct represents a leap forward for our industry. WiFi users worldwide will benefit from a single-technology solution to transfer content and share applications quickly and easily among devices, even when a WiFi access point isn't available. The impact is that WiFi will become even more pervasive and useful for consumers and across the enterprise."


Earlier this year, Intel unveiled its My WiFi technology, touted as allowing up to eight WiFi devices to connect to a laptop without the use of an AP. Apparently similar in intent to WiFi Direct, My WiFi works only with Intel's Ultimate N WiFi Link 5300, WiFi Link 5100, or WiFi Link 1000 adapters, and only with Windows 7 or Vista, according to the chipmaker.

WiFi Direct also competes with Bluetooth 3.0, announced in April. According to the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, this new version of the PAN (personal area networking) specification works by taking Bluetooth's protocols, profiles, security, and other architectural elements and allowing them to "jump on top of an already present 802.11 radio."

In other words, a pair of devices discover each other and shake hands using Bluetooth, but file transfers take place using the WiFi hardware layer. Once a file transfer is concluded, the WiFi radio falls silent and control passes back to Bluetooth, saving power, according to the SIG.

WiFi Direct could be bad news for Bluetooth 3.0, given that an increasing number of devices — the majority of notebook and netbook computers, for example — offer WiFi but do not include Bluetooth. On the other hand, while it offers much greater range, WiFi also consumes significantly more power than Bluetooth, and is also more likely to cause interference. Thus, WiFi Direct is unlikely to be adopted for simple peripherals such as keyboards, mice, or other devices that are used in close proximity to a host computer.

This video touts Intel's My WiFi technology

Source: Intel
(click to play)


WiFi Direct will be available in 2010, according to the WiFi Alliance. Members of the organization include Apple, Cisco, Intel, and nearly 300 other companies, though there was no word about who would ship products compatible with the new specification.

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