Wi-Fi Direct Testing Begins Now: A Real Bluetooth Rival

Bluetooth has been the main protocol for exchanging information in short-range scenarios for years. As long as we can remember, actually. It's hard to remember a cellphone made in recent years that lacked Bluetooth, and it hasn't had too much competition along the way. If you needed to transfer files with another device in the general area, you used Bluetooth: it was pretty simple.

But now, a protocol that was actually introduced last year is finally coming around, and it's a rival in every sense of the word. The Wi-Fi Alliance has announced that a Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Wi-Fi Direct program has officially started, enabling chipsets and products to get on their way to retail shelves.

So, what is Wi-Fi Direct? It's a protocol that enables point to point communication between two Wi-Fi devices, but the kicker is that no router is necessary to facilitate the communication. In other words, if a device is Wi-Fi Direct certified, it can then communicate directly with another Wi-Fi device nearby without a router in between. The Alliance sees device-to-device (laptop to TV, laptop to printer, tablet to laptop, etc.) access exploding once this standard takes off, and only one of the two Wi-Fi devices has to be Direct Certified for communication to take place.

It's also mostly backwards compatible, working with 802.11a/g/n products and requiring no new hardware. It's essentially a new software stack that enables the communications. In a best case scenario, Wi-Fi Direct products could hit shelves in Q4 2010 or Q1 2011, but there is no mention of what kind of products will appear first.

Wi-Fi® Gets Personal: Groundbreaking Wi-Fi Direct™ Launches Today
Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Wi-Fi Direct devices make connections that don't require a traditional network

AUSTIN, TX, Oct. 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Wi-Fi has made an important leap in connecting devices anywhere, anytime - with or without a traditional network available.  The Wi-Fi Alliance® today announced that it has begun certifying products capable of making device-to-device connections, designating those products Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Wi-Fi Direct.

With portable content like photos, videos and music taking center stage in the digital consumer experience, Wi-Fi Direct devices meet an important consumer need: directly connecting devices for applications such as content sharing, synching, printing, and gaming anywhere with ease.  Current trends demonstrating how people use digital devices highlight the need for this compelling solution:

    * Content is portable. In 2010, young Americans carry an average of about 1,100 songs, 50 videos, and 1,200 photos with them on digital devices.(1)
    * Wi-Fi connects it all.  With 82 million Wi-Fi-enabled portable consumer electronics and 216 million Wi-Fi enabled handsets set to ship this year, and growing at annual rates of 26 percent through 2014, consumers will be able to use Wi-Fi Direct to connect a huge range of digital devices.(2)
    * Apps are at the forefront.  New applications for portable devices emerge every day, offering compelling new ways to use connected devices.  Adoption of apps on portable devices is growing at a 50 percent annual rate.(3)
    * Technology is social.  In the United States, 64 percent of young people report that Wi-Fi connectivity helps them maintain relationships with their friends.  Moreover, young Americans also report they often gather around devices for entertainment, with about 90 percent of people reporting they have gathered around a portable device to look at pictures, videos, or video games.(4)

"We designed Wi-Fi Direct to unleash a wide variety of applications which require device connections, but do not need the Internet or even a traditional network," said Edgar Figueroa, CEO of the Wi-Fi Alliance.  "Wi-Fi Direct empowers users to connect devices – when, where and how they want to, and our certification program delivers products that work well together, regardless of the brand."

Wi-Fi Direct-certified devices can connect with older Wi-Fi CERTIFIED devices, enabling a vast range of devices already in use to connect with products implementing Wi-Fi Direct from the certification program's inception.  Wi-Fi Direct devices include a push-button set up mechanism, employ the latest WPA2™ security protections, and bring typical Wi-Fi throughput and range.  Wi-Fi Direct-certified devices can support Wi-Fi CERTIFIED n technology as well as older forms of Wi-Fi.

"Wi-Fi Direct is a game-changing advance for Wi-Fi technology," said Victoria Fodale, Senior Analyst at ABI Research.  "As people continue to increase the number of devices and the amount of content they carry, Wi-Fi Direct extends an already-compelling technology into an even more useful, convenient solution for all the things people want to do with their devices."

The first products to be designated Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Wi-Fi Direct, and which form the test suite for the certification program are:

    * Atheros XSPAN® Dual-band 802.11n PCIe Mini Card (AR928x)
    * Broadcom BCM43224 Dual-Band 802.11n 2x2 MIMO PCIe Half Mini Card
    * Intel® Centrino® Advanced-N 6200
    * Ralink MIMObility 802.11n 2x2 PCIe Half Mini Card
    * Realtek RTL8192CE-VA4 HM92C00 PCIe mini card

In addition, the Cisco 2106 Wireless LAN Controller and Cisco Aironet 1240 Series Access Points are used in the certification test suite.

More information, including information for consumers and retailers, a list of Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Wi-Fi Direct products, the technical specification, white papers, and more, is available at www.wi-fi.org/Wi-Fi_Direct.php.