The Wi-Fi Alliance recently announced its plans to unveil a new specification designed to let devices connect directly to each other using the popular networking technology.
We are told this proposed Wi-Fi Direct specification is just about complete, and the Wi-Fi Alliance said it expects to begin certifying devices around the middle of this year.
Wi-Fi Alliance Executive Director Edgar Figueroa was recently quoted as saying, “We hope it will redefine Wi-Fi for some and the personal area network for many. It's a new way to connect directly, device to device.”
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the Wi-Fi Alliance, in 1999 several visionary leaders came together to form a global non-profit organization with the goal of driving adoption of a single worldwide standard for high-speed wireless local area networking. The organization has grown to include over 300 companies, including Sony, Nikon, SanDisk, Olympus, Kodak, Epson and Lite-On, to name but a few from the imaging side of the equation.
Alliance members explain that Wi-Fi Direct can be implemented in any Wi-Fi-enabled device, including mobile phones, cameras, printers and notebook computers, as well as human interface devices such as keyboards and headphones. The idea here is to enable these devices to make a one-to-one connection, or to allow a group of several devices to connect simultaneously. We are told that certified current or legacy Wi-Fi devices will also be able to connect through Wi-Fi Direct.
Although many in the industry are claiming the initiative is aimed at making Wi-Fi “easier,” what the technology really does is make it more available. The idea being that the Wi-Fi in your laptop won't need an access point or a hotspot to connect with wireless printers, cameras, projectors, sensors or plasma screens.
The Alliance explains that Wi-Fi Direct simply sets up a connection negotiation process, resulting in a master-slave relationship, with one device having the role of “group owner” for a flock of Wi-Fi devices connecting together. The group owner controls the domain, administers it, and can grant or terminate Wi-Fi connections.
The wireless world has been screaming for a spec like this, and Wi-Fi Direct could not be better timed for the imaging industry. As mobile imaging is beginning to take off and digital camera manufacturers are discovering the importance of the social networking world, the Wi-Fi Direct spec could open up the practice of wirelessly sharing images to much broader audience.
“Wireless technology has been lurking around the imaging world for years now without grabbing firm hold,” explained Seth Greene, who covers the wireless industry for various media outlets. “Simplifying this technology will open many doors—and not just for consumers. Retailers should be excited as well.”
Greene added, “It represents a great alternative to dealing with all these cables, USB and such, that people are just tired of.”
Any time a technology comes along that makes an existing tech easier and potentially opens the door to it for a much larger audience it's significant. When it encompasses and potentially changes consumer imaging habits, well then, it's of even greater import.
“I think if you make it much easier for this constantly connected crowd to share their images they are more likely to do more with them than simply upload them to Facebook,” added retail analyst Lauren Sosik. “Wi-Fi Direct can do that and maybe it will also unlock new desires within this crowd that hasn't had as keen an interest in printing. We'll see.”
www.picturebusinessmag.com • January 2010