Wi-Fi Direct becomes real at CES 2010

The Wi-Fi Alliance demonstrates the use of Wi-Fi Direct to connect multiple devices without an access point.

Dong Ngo SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews
CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.
Dong Ngo
3 min read

LAS VEGAS--It's not like I need any more reasons to love Wi-Fi; my iPhone attests to that everyday. However, the Wi-Fi Alliance, a nonprofit group that promotes the use of Wi-Fi technology, has something it believes will make you love this popular way for devices to connect even more--especially owners of electronics that, for now, are not known to be Wi-Fi-enabled.

The Wi-Fi Direct logo. Wi-Fi Alliance

It is called "Wi-Fi Direct." and for the first time it's now being demonstrated at CES 2010.

First introduced back in October, Wi-Fi Direct makes connecting Wi-Fi-enabled devices much easier by allowing many of them them to connect peer-to-peer, without an access point.

Currently, Wi-Fi devices can already connect directly to one another in an ad-hoc mode. However, this mode is limited to only a pair of devices at a time and offers much slower performance and range than the popular infrastructure mode (which requires an access point).

Wi-Fi-Direct-enabled devices, on the other hand, will have the same range and performance as when used in the infrastructure mode. Furthermore, it also makes it convenient to connect devices with Wi-Fi Protected Setup, a technology that allows devices to connect securely without you having to manually type in the encryption key.

This also means, the Wi-Fi Direct might mean the death of Bluetooth, which has been widely used to connect electronic devices peer-to-peer.

According to a recent survey done by the Wi-Fi Alliance, when given a description of Wi-Fi Direct, 79 percent of respondents reported that they were interested in seeing Wi-Fi Direct technology incorporated into new devices. Sixty percent agreed that Wi-Fi Direct represents a "more amazing invention than digital television that delivers hundreds of channels to your home."

Apart from applications for a wide range of entertainment devices, such as TVs, game consoles, set-top boxes, and so on, I personally also find this new technology suitable for people traveling in a group. As Wi-Fi Direct works concurrently with traditional Wi-Fi, it's a great way to share a single Internet connection among multiple devices. This is very similar to Intel's My Wi-Fi idea that was introduced back at CES 2009, which unfortunately didn't catch on later during the year.

According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, a Wi-Fi Direct-enabled device can create a mini (or "soft") access point for other Wi-Fi devices to connect to. This means, in a group of wireless devices, only one needs to support Wi-Fi Direct for the whole group to connect. More importantly, as Wi-Fi Direct doesn't require many changes to the hardware, most existing Wi-Fi devices can support it via a small firmware update--or software installation, in the case computers.

Currently there are no out-of-the-box Wi-Fi Direct-enabled products on the market, but considering the potential of the technology, the Wi-Fi Alliance believes it will be widely adopted starting the middle of the year when the technology is slated to be finalized and released. So be on the look out for products that bear the logo above, you'll be happy to find out how well they are connected.