Wi-Fi Direct Brings P2P Transfer To Wi-Fi Devices, Rivals Bluetooth

There was once a time where the Bluetooth SIG was looking into pairing BT devices with Bluetooth, and even now, Bluetooth 3.0 relies on 802.11n for high-speed transfers. But we get the feeling that Wi-Fi wouldn't think twice of stabbing that "other" short-range communication protocol in the back, as evidenced by a new release by the kind folks over at the Wi-Fi Alliance.

The Wi-Fi Direct program, as it's so innocently called, could honestly spell the death of Bluetooth. We know, we know--BT has a solid following, but it never has worked perfectly well 100% of the time. Connection drops, short ranges and pairing conflicts always held it back, while Wi-Fi seemed to creep into the hardest of hearts with ease. Formerly known as Wi-Fi peer-to-peer, the new solution aims to enabled Wi-Fi devices to speak directly to one another without first needing to route signal through a WLAN router or other access point. In other words, Wi-Fi is about to do what Bluetooth has been doing for years.

The Wi-Fi Alliance expects to begin certification for this new specification in mid-2010, and we suspect products certified will ship shortly thereafter. We're told that the spec can be implemented in any Wi-Fi device, from mobile phones, cameras, printers, and notebook computers, to human interface devices such as keyboards and headphones. Devices will be able to make a one-to-one connection, or a group of several devices can connect simultaneously. The specification targets both consumer electronics and enterprise applications, provides management features for enterprise environments, and includes WPA2 security. Devices that support the specification will be able to discover one another and advertise available services.

Honestly, this has the potential to really change how we see Wi-Fi devices and how we look at ad hoc connections. Leeching off of someone else's connection could get a whole lot easier, and device-to-device sharing could be revolutionized. Needless to say, we're excited, and you should be too.

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

 "With Wi-Fi technology already shipping in millions of consumer electronics devices and handsets every year, this is a terrific innovation for the industry," said Victoria Fodale, senior analyst and market intelligence manager at In-Stat. "Empowering devices to move content and share applications without having to join a network brings even more convenience and utility to Wi-Fi-enabled devices."

The Wi-Fi Alliance plans to publish its peer-to-peer specification upon completion, and will begin certifying devices for the Wi-Fi Direct designation in 2010.  Only Wi-Fi Alliance member companies will be able to certify devices to the new specification.