Wi-Fi Alliance unveils Miracast certification to ease multimedia streaming

Devices from multiple vendors can share video, images and other content without an access point or complex setup, the group said

The Wi-Fi Alliance has launched a certification program for its Miracast video transmission specification, offering a seal of approval that should ensure many different phones, tablets, laptops, TVs and other products can send video to each other without cables.

The group is set to announce the certification program on Wednesday and reveal a list of several approved products.

Miracast is designed to make it easy for users to stream video, photos or other content from one device to another. It's aimed at technical challenges such as watching Web video on a TV, sending shows from a set-top box to a tablet, or linking a laptop to a projector.

Though manufacturers may design different user interfaces for these functions, any device with Miracast will be able to exchange video with another Miracast product without complex configuration steps, according to Kevin Robinson, senior marketing manager at the Wi-Fi Alliance.

Users don't need an access point to do transfers with Miracast because the system is built on top of Wi-Fi Direct, the alliance's standard for peer-to-peer communication over Wi-Fi. It's the first of what may be a number of use-specific implementations of Wi-Fi Direct, which some members of the alliance are exploring as part of efforts to make Wi-Fi Direct easier to use.

For example, sending video from a phone to a TV using Miracast removes several manual steps, Robinson said.

"When they want to share a video, they simply click a button to look for the television they want to display that content on, they select the television, and at that point the devices set up the Wi-Fi Direct connection and negotiate the appropriate video settings," Robinson said. "The user just sees the video showing up on the television."

There are other technologies for streaming video wirelessly among devices, but Miracast will have the advantage of ease of use and broad multivendor support, Robinson said. Intel, which developed its own video streaming technology called WiDi, has come out in support of Miracast, he said.

In addition, Miracast supports copy protection of premium content through version 2 of the HDCP (High-Bandwith Digital Copy Protection) standard. HDCP2 is a wireless version of the HDCP standard used with the most common wired multimedia link, HDMI. As a result, content that's designed to be protected over HDMI will also be allowed to travel over Miracast. Links made with the system will also be secured automatically with standard WPA2 technology, Robinson said.

Miracast can work with all forms of Wi-Fi up to 802.11n, the current mainstream technology. In the future, it should be able to include products with the faster 802.11ac standard, Robinson said.

Apple's AirPlay is the most prominent alternative to Miracast, and Apple has shared that technology with makers of some products that complement its computers and mobile devices.

"If Apple were to win, it wouldn't be the first time a proprietary technology beat the standard," said Farpoint Group analyst Craig Mathias.

However, Miracast has a large built-in advantage because of its backing by the Wi-Fi Alliance, which has defined in-building wireless for many years, Mathias said. He sees the specification as being potentially even more important in work settings than at home, for functions such as sending content to a shared projector.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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