We had an emergency here last night.
My dear wife had a huge file she wanted to get to my PC -- to my printer actually.
We have Wi-Fi, but the best solution turned out to be SneakerNet. Plug a flash drive into a USB port, download the file, walk over to the other computer and upload.
Wish we had thought of it. Instead we tried working wirelessly. It was a fiasco.
By Christmas of 2010 this hassle may be over. Wi-Fi Direct, a new standard from the Wi-Fi Alliance, will let Wi-Fi clients create adhoc peer-to-peer networks among one another.
The best news is that once you have one of these new devices in your home -- a printer, a new keyboard, a phone -- that device will be able to use the new standard with all your old gear. She could run her file to the printer through her phone, without going through the router linking our network to the Internet.
The idea here is to extend the standard, which can't get much faster than the current 802.11n speed of 100 Mbps, and to compete against other wireless services like Bluetooth and Zigbee, which run peer-to-peer on the same frequencies but, with less power, don't throw data as far.
But notice the difference here. Previous enhancements only worked when every device on the network was upgraded. Your PC running 10 Mbps 802.11b can't do 50 Mbps 802.11g just because you bought a new router -- it needed an upgrade.
Not true here. One upgrade, on one device, and peer-to-peer connections will abound everywhere on your network, running through that device. Of course, it gets better as more devices are upgraded.
This could prove problematic in your local coffee shop. Someone with W-iFi Direct walks in and everyone starts connecting with everyone else, using their system as a gateway.
But the coffee shop owner can offer this "enhanced" service by simply buying a new USB or PC Card for their own laptop with Wi-Fi Direct and using it at the counter. The cost will be less than $50.
There's another important point here that bears repeating.
There remains immense fear among ordinary people that moving data around with Wi-Fi radios is somehow "stealing" from someone. Open up my unused bandwidth to others? Never! Why I would be responsible for everything they did with it.
This is, of course, nonsense. Coffee shop owners aren't being hauled away in handcuffs for what their customers are doing, and you won't be hauled away over what your neighbor does when you're not home.
Hopefully widespread use of Wi-Fi Direct can quietly put this to rest. As we become accustomed to moving data from PC to PC around our homes, we might understand that moving bits is easy, and it deserves to be free.
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com