October 25, 2010, 11:09 AM — Wi-Fi Direct officially became a concrete technology today with several new laptop components certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance. That threshold was reached even before most people even understand what Wi-Fi Direct is.
Wi-Fi Direct is a new technology designed to allow peer-to-peer Wi-Fi connections between devices like smartphones and cameras without a traditional Wi-Fi network or the need for Wi-Fi access points.
This means that a camera with Wi-Fi Direct installed could communicate via Wi-Fi to a digital picture frame or printer, uploading picture data over the same range of existing Wi-Fi of about 200 yards at speeds of up to 250Mbit/sec., said Wi-Fi Alliance CEO Edgar Figueroa in an interview. The alliance calls the technology "groundbreaking."
"Wi-Fi Direct is peer-to-peer technology, but you don't need a [Wi-Fi] access point to do this," he said. "Imagine if two people were on a train and wanted to play a game in real time on their separate handhelds but had no cellular or Wi-Fi hot spot. They still could play with Wi-Fi Direct."
The Wi-Fi Alliance has posted an FAQ about the technology on its Web site.
In another scenario, Figueroa said a user could be taking photographs on the upper deck of a ship and sending the pictures to a Wi-Fi Direct-enabled laptop on a deck below.
The same concept could work for a salesperson making a presentation to customers at their business, he said. She could use a laptop or smartphone to communicate to a projector at the customer's offices to show slides or video, without the need for wires or physical connections.
The Wi-Fi Alliance said consumer and business products using Wi-Fi Direct will expand greatly in coming weeks, and it announced five products that the group has certified to be Wi-Fi Direct-ready. They are mostly laptop components and include an Atheros PCI mini card, an Intel Centrino internal PCI half mini card, a reference design from Ralink, a Realtek PCI mini card and a product identified only as a Broadcom BCM43224 module. Other companies are expected to make announcements of Wi-Fi Direct support today.
As with other peer-to-peer networks, security could be a worry for some users, but Figueroa said "security is baked in to every connection" with WPA2 authentication and encryption.