The Wi-Fi Alliance, the governing body that argues for years about before eventually ratifying and certifying official Wi-Fi specifications, is about to make the peer-to-peer connected world a bit easier. It has just announced that is is nearing completion of a new "Wi-Fi Direct" specification for peer-to-peer communications. The Wi-Fi Alliance expects to begin certification for this new specification in mid-2010; products which achieve the certification will be designated "Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Wi-Fi Direct."
So what does this all mean? Well, right now Wi-Fi devices like computers (especially notebooks), printers, cameras, and phones have a pretty hard time connecting to each other directly. If you want devices to talk together, you usually have to connect to some sort of hub or hotspot in what is typically called "infrastructre" mode, instead of directly connecting as an "ad-hoc" network. Ad-hoc networking, simply put, does not work most of the time...at least not without a bunch of fiddling or custom software. Sure, you can get an ad-hoc network running between identical devices made for it, like a pair of Sony PSP handhelds, but try connecting any two notebooks or a notebook to a Wi-Fi enabled printer without a router in between. It's a nightmare.
This new specification should smooth out the kinks and ensure that all the devices that carry the Wi-Fi Direct certification can quickly and easily connect together. Think of how Bluetooth devices pair up comparatively quickly and easily. With the cost of Wi-Fi chips continuing to drop, it could become the emerging standard for wireless keyboards and mice. With virtually every notebook shipping with Wi-Fi built in, it would enable such peripherals to work without dongles jammed in our USB ports.
The best part? It shouldn't require new hardware. For most of the recent Wi-Fi devices on the market, the standard could be added with a firmware update.