Wi-Fi Direct at CES

There’s nothing like trying to traverse the CES show floor(s) to throw off your schedule. On my way to an afternoon appointment on Friday, I decided to stop by the booth for the Wi-Fi Alliance to get an update on the point-to-point capabilities of the upcoming Wi-Fi Direct specification. While Wi-Fi enjoyed a comeback in 2009 (remember when Ericsson predicted the death of hotspots nearly two years ago?), 2010 looks to be the year that innovation in Wi-Fi really takes off. With that in mind, I tried to find the right booth location for the Wi-Fi Alliance. It wasn’t easy.

I found the folks from the Wi-Fi Alliance mere minutes before my next scheduled meeting, and I was surprised to see that their booth wasn’t really a booth, but a closed-off meeting room. That said, the three representatives there were extremely welcoming when I explained why I was stopping by. Edgar Figueroa, the executive director, enthusiastically explained that the first devices certified for Wi-Fi Direct would be out later this year. Early products that have been demoed include keyboards, computer mice, and standard peripherals like printers that can take advantage of file sharing. Most interestingly, Figueroa pointed out that only one device needs to support Wi-Fi Direct in order to enable device-to-device communication. Any other device only needs to support regular Wi-Fi. This solves the traditional problem of maneuvering around legacy equipment quite nicely.

Apparently several companies demoed Wi-Fi Direct capabilities during CES, but there was no central location to see those products in action. Meanwhile, the implications of Wi-Fi Direct are manifold: no need for an Internet connection to share files, music, photos, and video between devices; less congestion on the Internet highway; no worry about bandwidth caps; a complementary, yet also competitive relationship to the existing Bluetooth and Zigbee standards.

I’ll be scheduling a full briefing with the folks at the Wi-Fi Alliance some time in the next several weeks. In the meantime, it’s fun to ponder the Wi-Fi Direct use cases. Cameras, smartphones, and eReaders, oh my.

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