Networking

Wi-Fi Direct Changes the Game for Mobile Productivity

The Wi-Fi Alliance today announced new Wi-Fi Direct technology that enables wireless devices to connect and share data directly without the benefit of a hotspot or other wireless network. Wi-Fi Direct will let users share and collaborate on the spot, and change the way we conduct business on the go.

Wi-Fi Direct is a new wireless technology that enables Wi-Fi devices to connect directly to one another. That means that users on the go can print, share data, sync files, and display information from notebooks and netbooks, as well as devices like smartphones and tablets. Products that are certified Wi-Fi Direct can connect to other wireless devices without joining a traditional wireless network or Wi-Fi hotspot.

Wi-Fi Direct lets wireless devices connect directly to each other without a hotspot.
Connecting with Wi-Fi Direct will require having a Wi-Fi Direct-capable device, but a Wi-Fi Direct-capable device will be able to connect directly with older wireless devices as well, greatly expanding the value and potential of the new technology. According to the Wi-Fi Alliance Web site, "Connecting Wi-Fi Direct-certified devices is easy and simple, in many cases only requiring the push of a button. Moreover, all Wi-Fi Direct connections are protected by WPA2TM, the latest Wi-Fi security technology. With Wi-Fi Direct, you do not need an access point or internet connection--your personal Wi-Fi network goes with you wherever you go."

It seems like there is a wireless network everywhere you turn, so Wi-Fi Direct wouldn't even be necessary. You can't drive two blocks in any direction in a greater metropolitan area without coming across a McDonald's, or a Starbucks, or both--perhaps many of each. Both establishments, as well as a plethora of other retail outlets, and some communities offer free wireless networking, so mobile business professionals can simply connect and share data that way.

You'd be amazed, though, to discover just how sparse McDonald's and Starbucks are when you actually need them. Never mind that it is sort of convoluted to connect two different devices to a third-party wireless network in order to facilitate sharing data between them, and sharing data securely on an unencrypted Wi-Fi hotspot is tricky at best.

I could have really used Wi-Fi Direct on a recent business trip. I had written some content on my iPad while on my flight (the cramped spaces on economy flights are much more conducive to working with the iPad than trying to work on my laptop). Once I arrived at the hotel, I wanted to get the data over to my laptop so I could finish it and upload it on my VPN connection. The lack of any USB or SD memory ports on the iPad mean that transferring the file wirelessly or through some Web-based intermediary like Box.net was the only option, but for some reason the iPad would not connect with the Wi-Fi network in the hotel.

Eventually, I was forced to go Wi-Fi war driving to find an open wireless network that my iPad would connect to so I could e-mail the file to myself and collect it on my laptop. Sure would have been easier if my iPad or laptop was equipped with Wi-Fi Direct and I could have just set up a peer-to-peer wireless network between the two.

Wi-Fi Direct will fundamentally change the way that data is shared and transferred between mobile devices, enabling business professionals on the go to work more efficiently with co-workers, customers, and partners without having to connect to some external wireless network first.

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