What You Need to Know About Wi-Fi Direct

Q: Is Wi-Fi Direct going to be replacing regular Wi-Fi? What's the difference? Do I have to worry about upgrading some of my gadgets?

Wi-Fi Alliance Logo.jpegA: Last week, the global non-profit Wi-Fi Alliance announced that certification of Wi-Fi Direct products had started. The Wi-Fi Alliance, which works to promote a single worldwide standard for wireless networking, counts Apple, Intel and other influential players among its members, so we're likely to see a lot of certified devices hitting the market soon.

Formerly known as Wi-Fi Peer-to-Peer, Wi-Fi Direct makes it easy for various electronics to communicate with each other without access to traditional wireless hot spots. Off the grid or outside of the network, these devices will be about to connect and share files -- photos, video, music -- anytime, anywhere.

New Wi-Fi Direct-certified products will be able to connect with older Wi-Fi certified devices, bringing millions of gadgets into the fold. "Wi-Fi Direct is a game-changing advance for Wi-Fi technology," said Victoria Fodale, Senior Analyst at ABI Research, in a press release.  "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."

What do you need to know?

Built-In Security: Wi-Fi Direct using built-in WPA2 security that cannot be disabled. A certification program developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance, WPA2 is the same thing you use to lock your at-home wireless networks. The built-in security is what primarily separates Wi-Fi Direct from ad-hoc wireless networking.

Won't Replace Traditional Networks: Wi-Fi Direct-certified gadgets will not be able to provide the same range that a wireless router can provide.

Better Than Bluetooth: You may have used Bluetooth connectictivity in the past to share photos with friends within range. Wi-Fi Direct promises to provide a better connections and greater range than what you're used to.

Number of Devices: "A Wi-Fi Direct-certified network can be one-to-one, or one-to-many," according to a FAQ page release by the Wi-Fi Alliance. "The number of devices in a Wi-Fi Direct-certified group network is expected to be smaller than the number supported by traditional standalone access points intended for consumer use. Connection to multiple other devices is an optional feature that will not be supported in all Wi-Fi Direct-certified devices; some devices will only make 1:1 connections."

Ease of Use: It most cases, setting up Wi-Fi Direct should be as simple as pressing a button on each enabled device.

Speed: Wi-Fi Direct-certified gadgets will support the traditional Wi-Fi speeds, meaning they can get as fast as 250 Mbps. The idea is to allow for the quick transfer of multimedia content between devices.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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