‘Awareness’ The Next Step For Wi-Fi


A new technology standard could make it easier for wireless devices to sync with one another, even if neither has an Internet connection.

The standard comes from the Wi-Fi Alliance, the international organization that test wireless equipment not just for radio and data interoperability but also security.

The group already has a standard called Wi-Fi Direct which allows devices to connect directly without a router or other wireless access point and then transfer data at Wi-Fi speeds. Earlier this year it unveiled a follow-up, Wi-Fi Aware, and this week it’s announced a start to the certification program.

Wi-Fi Aware isn’t about the connection itself but rather the discovery of other devices. It involves devices in effect broadcasting a signal to announce their existence. The reply then comes from specific applications or services on the receiving device. While users remain in control of what information is shared and where it goes to or comes from, the idea is to remove the need for users to actively search for devices and initiate a connection.

The connections work without needing any intervening device such as a router as the data is beamed directly rather than via the Internet. In theory at least it should work even in large crowds where cellphone and Wi-Fi networks can easily get overloaded.

According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, the user would have complete control over which applications it will accept ‘replies’ from. That’s the concept of the device being “aware” of all the connections that are available in its location, but filtering out unwanted and irrelevant ones.

The Alliance also says the key is proximity rather than location. The system can tell exactly how close devices are to one another rather than have to figure it out by comparing their respective locations via mapping and GPS data. That should allow better accuracy, for example making it easier for a social networking tool to alert you when a friend has entered the same room in a nightclub.

Devices will only scan for possible connections at fixed intervals, drawing little to no power in between. Once they do make a connection, the two devices will sync up their send and receive patterns to emit data in the pulses of a “wireless heartbeat” rather than run continuously, again with the idea being to cut power use.

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