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Wi-Fi group acts to simplify peer-to-peer video, printing and other tasks

Stephen Lawson | Sept. 16, 2014
The Wi-Fi Direct standard for linking two devices without a LAN is about to get easier to use.

There's no new hardware required, so vendors can provide upgrades for products already in customers' hands. The Alliance is providing vendors with applications for each of the four services, so essentially all they'll need to build is the user interface. But the group is also going to provide a toolkit for building similar capabilities for other processes in a standard way, Figueroa said.

Certifications began last month, and several products have already been approved as part of an initial testbed. They include the Google Nexus 10 tablet, Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800-based Linux Android Systems with XSPAN 802.11n Connectivity, and a printer reference design from Seiko Epson.

The new specifications were developed by a Wi-Fi Direct Services task group that the Alliance formed in mid-2012. At that time, the Alliance's marketing director said vendors weren't developing enough implementations for using Wi-Fi Direct between different vendors' products. Because of poor interoperability, some devices such as printers advertised themselves as Wi-Fi Direct clients but weren't always able to work with the user's device, one chip engineer said at the time.

The Alliance fast-tracked the Wi-Fi Direct Services effort, and in July 2012, Figueroa estimated the work would be done within 18 months. Instead, it took about two years. But as standards development efforts go, that's still a quick turnaround, he said last week. Major iterations of the IEEE 802.11 standards that form the foundation of Wi-Fi take an average of about three years to develop, and in some cases much longer, according to Farpoint Group analyst Craig Mathias, a longtime Wi-Fi watcher.

The easier it is to use Wi-Fi Direct, the more consumers will take advantage of it, Mathias said. "It will just take time," he said.

Eventually, Wi-Fi Direct will essentially be invisible, thanks to ongoing standardization and interoperability testing, Mathias said.

"It will be transparent. It will be one of those things built into the operating system, and it just works."

 

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