New Wi-Fi spec challenges Bluetooth

The specification, called Wi-Fi Direct, turns gadgets into mini access points and could hurt Bluetooth's dominance in gadget wireless connectivity.

A new Wi-Fi specification will let wireless devices discover and connect to one another without a router.

The spec, called Wi-Fi Direct, was announced Wednesday by the Wi-Fi Alliance, the industry group that promotes the technology. By making it much easier for devices to connect directly to each other using Wi-Fi, the new spec could pose a challenge to wireless technologies such Bluetooth.

The way Wi-Fi Direct works is that it allows Wi-Fi-enabled devices such as phones, cameras, printers, computers, keyboards, and headphones to connect to other Wi-Fi devices individually or to multiple devices at once. The spec will support standard Wi-Fi data rates, and devices will be able to connect to one another within about 100 meters of each other. This would allow just about any device that has Wi-Fi built into it to use wireless broadband instead of Bluetooth. It could even eliminate the need for Wi-Fi routers in some places.

The new spec will turn gadgets into mini Wi-Fi access points, which means that it could reduce the need for home Wi-Fi routers. It could also hurt Bluetooth, which is widely used to provide similar peer-to-peer connections between devices. For example, Bluetooth technology connects headsets to music players and cell phones. And it's used to provide other high-speed wireless connections over short distances between other devices. The new Wi-Fi Direct specification would offer the same function.

Ad hoc wireless connections are already supported via the current Wi-Fi standard. But the Wi-Fi Direct specification would make it easier for devices to discover each other and connect. The Wi-Fi Alliance plans to publish the new peer-to-peer Wi-Fi specification soon and says it will begin certifying devices for Wi-Fi Direct in 2010.


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