Wi-Fi Direct: Really Fast but Really Necessary?

Wi-Fi Direct: Really Fast but Really Necessary?

Summary: Wi-Fi Direct will let you connect devices at 250Mbps, but why bother when you probably already have an 802.11n network?

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Wi-Fi Direct is one of those technologies that sounds like it makes sense, but then if you really think about using it in real life.... well then it doesn't sound so great.

The idea is simple. There are two ways you can do Wi-Fi. There's infrastructure, where you have an access point and a lot of clients and then there's ad hoc, where laptops share network with one another in peer-to-peer mode. Ad hoc, as anyone who uses it knows, has awful throughput but the security is even worse. With Wi-Fi Direct, you get peer-to-peer Wi-Fi connections between devices like camera and a printer without an existing network.

That could be useful for grandma who just wants to get the photos of the new grandkids from her PC to her digital picture frame, except... well how does she do that again? The technology may make this possible, but I don't see much in the way of the all-important implementation details worked out yet.

For everyone else, we already have our Wi-Fi networks right? Do we really need what amounts to a long range, high-speed rival to Bluetooth? I don't think so.

Under the hood Wi-Fi Direct uses the same old Wi-Fi wireless technologies. According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, Wi-Fi Direct will work with 802.11a/b/g/n networks and it all be as easy as pie.

Except, of course, it won't be that easy. There's only so much room in the 2.4GHz and 5GHz ranges. A common networking problem these days is how do you deal with conflicting Wi-Fi networks. Wi-Fi Direct devices will make a best attempt effort to fit themselves into the existing wireless network, but managing them, especially in devices, is going to be a pain in the rump.

Security, at least, won't be a problem. Wi-Fi Direct uses Wi-Fi Protected Setup, IN turn, this uses a push-button o or PIN code-based, quick setup to set up a WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 2) connection. Older Wi-Fi equipment, so long as they support WPA2, will see and work with Wi-Fi Direct devices as if it they were Access Points.

Regardless of how I feel about this technology, many vendors are already releasing low-level equipment that supports it. These include Atheros, Broadcom, and Intel with chipsets and network interface cards. Where are the devices though that will have these inside them? Good question. I haven't seen or heard of any yet.

I also wonder just how useful they'll prove once they are out. WI-FI Alliance executive director Edgar Figueroa recently said: "Wi-Fi Direct represents a leap forward for our industry. Wi-Fi users worldwide will benefit from a single-technology solution to transfer content and share applications quickly and easily among devices, even when a Wi-Fi access point isn't available."

But, as Sam Diaz pointed out when he wanted to up upload a photo form his phone to his laptop with Bluetooth, "When I asked my phone (and laptop) to find the other Bluetooth device, I came up with a list of more than a dozen devices within range. Having no idea which of those were mine, I scrapped the file-transfer and just did the photo upload later."

Now imagine that instead of Bluetooth range which is measured in feet, you're using Wi-Fi where you measure range in yards. Good luck using Wi-Fi Direct anywhere outside your home. And, as you'll discover when grandma calls, it's not going to be that easy for grandma either.

Of course if you used Wi-Fi Direct to set up a network so you could keep track of all your devices on your wireless LAN and then there wouldn't be a problem. Oh. Wait. We're back to setting up an infrastructure Wi-Fi LAN again aren't we?

Topics: Mobility, Networking, Wi-Fi

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6 comments
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  • RE: Wi-Fi Direct: Really Fast but Really Necessary?

    If it's faster, it'll be worth it IMO. 10+ GB games, 1080p videos now available on many websites - I'm sure I can max it out pretty easily.

    . . . and it's possible they learned from Bluetooth how to better handle multiple devices in range. The push button setup only requires that you push the button on both devices - it doesn't require you to go through a list of all the devices in the area. I imagine the PIN setup could be designed similarly, with the PIN acting as an identifier for your own devices.
    CobraA1
  • RE: Wi-Fi Direct: Really Fast but Really Necessary?

    If you give your Bluetooth device a name, it is easy to recognise it in a crowd.

    The extended range of Wi-fi Direct could be useful in establishing home networks.
    jorjitop
  • RE: Wi-Fi Direct: Really Fast but Really Necessary?

    Grandmas everywhere figured out how to pair their Wii balance boards with their Wiis. I think they can do it with WiFi direct.
    BoloMKXXVIII
  • Could act just like bluetooth, the vendor assigns a name and that name pops

    up to the user when they press connect.

    The main issue at stake here is security. How to do prevent someone from malaciously attacking your stuff just by driving by your house or walking into your business.

    Here is what i think.. a usb interface security chip. Very small, you just plug it into the device and bam, all security codes authenticate through it. All you have to do is plug into your PC and approve it first before plugging it into the wifi direct device. You could also have a stand alone device that programs it.. very cheap to make... sell in mass and grandma can use it.

    close to a pin but it adds a step in the whole be secure phase.
    Been_Done_Before
  • RE: Wi-Fi Direct: Really Fast but Really Necessary?

    WPA2 takes care of the security aspect. What the author neglects to mention is have you ever tried to transfer music or pics over a blue tooth connection! To say the least its painfully slow. Now think about to mobile devices that can do this same transfer over Wi-Fi at g and n speeds!

    A piece of software called Connectify can already turn your wireless NIC into a transmitter. It easy to start, configure and uses WPA2 by default.

    This is not Grandma's technology!...
    jagdogg1975
  • you really haven used wi fi direct efficiently have you ??

    I mean come on, can you do transfer a 1GB video to another phone using your bluetooth ?? You will die before it transfers where as wi fi direct does it in a minute less !!

    I use wi fi direct to share files with my pals from nearby block which is 100 meters away and always works like charm !!

    Don't be whining about paring, that's a one time job, i think you can do search and pair for your grandma once !!

    Last thing, don't complain abt technology which you don't use efficiently, speak in generic terms not abt your usage..
    Prakash Frozen