Wi-Fi Direct Lets Wireless Devices Talk Face to Face

The Wi-Fi Alliance, a consortium of companies making WiFi products, has unveiled a new protocol, Wi-Fi Direct.

This lets WiFi products certified by the Alliance connect directly with each other, without the need for a wireless access point or router.

However, Wi-Fi Direct is aimed at augmenting wireless access points or routers, not replacing them.

The Alliance has begun certifying WiFi products for the new protocol.

The Wi-Fi Alliance did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

About WiFi Direct

Wi-Fi Direct was designed to connect devices anytime, anywhere. Devices include a push-button setup mechanism. They use the latest WPA2 security protection.

WPA2 is the second generation of the WiFi Protected Access protocol developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance. It implements the full IEEE 802.11k standard. WPA2 introduces CCMP, a new Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)-based encryption mode with strong security.

The Wi-Fi Alliance has already begun certifying Wi-Fi Direct devices. A certified Wi-Fi Direct Device can connect with existing 802.11 a/g/n devices provided they are also WiFi certified.

Wi-Fi Direct Networks

A Wi-Fi Direct network can be a one-to-one or a one-to-many network. However, a Wi-Fi Direct group network will generally, support fewer devices than standalone access points for consumer use do. Not all Wi-Fi Direct devices will support one-to-many networking.

All Wi-Fi Direct devices operate in the 2.4 GHz frequency band; some also operate in the 5 GHz frequency band. Wi-Fi Direct devices support typical speeds of up to 250 Mbps. They have a range of up to 200 meters.

All Wi-Fi Direct devices can connect to an infrastructure or a network of other Wi-Fi Direct devices. Some will support connections to both an infrastructure network and a Wi-Fi Direct group at the same time.

A single device in a Wi-Fi Direct group network may share Internet connectivity with other devices in the network by creating simultaneous infrastructure and Wi-Fi Direct connections. A network of Wi-Fi Direct devices will operate in a security domain that’s separate from the infrastructure network.

In a network of Wi-Fi Direct devices, one will automatically act as an access point. The devices will conduct a negotiation to determine which of them is most appropriate for creating and managing the connection. However, it’s most likely that devices with more computing power, such as laptops, handsets and gaming devices, will create and manage the access points, rather than those with less computing power such as digital cameras and printers.

Looking at Wi-Fi Direct

“Wi-Fi Direct is really peer-to-peer wireless networking,” Carl Howe, director of anywhere consumer research at the Yankee Group, told TechNewsWorld. “I think this technology is largely targeted at consumers, as enterprises typically want more control over wireless connections.”

However, because of Wi-Fi Direct’s peer-to-peer approach, enterprises will find it difficult to restrain their staff from using it, Howe said.

That could lead to trouble in the workplace.

“This could be very frightening for businesses,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld. “With every wireless PC now capable of being a wireless access point, the potential for a network breach goes up significantly.”

There are programs to ensure PCs are configured properly, but they haven’t been consistently used, Enderle pointed out.

“This new feature would likely add further risks to corporate users,” he added.

Getting to Need You

Still, Wi-Fi Direct may be useful, especially in the home.

“We’ve been looking for a good point-to-point wireless interconnect for some time,” Jim McGregor, chief technology strategist at In-Stat, told TechNewsWorld. “Bluetooth hasn’t received wide adoption across all categories so there’s a big effort to go on WiFi because it’s the de facto wireless standard in the home.”

Another similar technology is Intel Wireless Display, or WiDi, which Intel CEO Paul Otellini announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last January. WiDi is being integrated into Intel’s latest Core processors to let users transmit video from PCs to their high-definition TV sets.

Intel’s now jumping onto the Wi-Fi Direct bandwagon.

“Intel supports the Wi-Fi Direct standard and plans to certify its wireless products for this standard,” Kerry Forrell, Intel Wireless Display product manager, told TechNewsWorld. “Intel WiDi takes advantage of a peer-to-peer connection as one piece of the overall solution.”

1 Comment

  • I have had similar capability on my Mac tower since 2003. I use it to WiFi my Blu-ray player and any laptop in the area to my hardwired Mac and on to the network so I don’t have to run individual cables.

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