The latest WiFi Alliance certification program will center on WiFi Aware, which will enable device users to locate others nearby in order to join them in game-playing, business discussions or content sharing. That connectivity could take place over conventional WiFi or over the peer-to-peer system, WiFi Direct.
Similar ad hoc, P2P communications services are already available, using Bluetooth or WiFi, but Aware will standardise the way they work, to simplify and encourage uptake and to introduce elements like security. The technology should be added to chips later this year and available in smartphones and tablets next year, the Alliance announced at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) on Tuesday. Its certification process will be ready around the middle of 2015.
WiFi Aware uses ‘neighbor awareness’ software which works continuously in the background, saving power by sending clusters of very small ping messages rather than broadcasting all the time. This is a similar approach to that of Bluetooth beacons (over which Aware can run, the Alliance’s head of marketing, Kelly Davis-Felner, told NetworkWorld). The software also helps users ascertain what kind of games or services are available before making a connection. It has to be built into an app in order to be used.
Like beacons, WiFi Aware sees the supporters of connectivity technologies adding higher value capabilities to embed their standards tightly into the whole wireless experience, enabling new services while requiring limited effort from end users to activate them. In particular, these will rely on location and context awareness so that connectivity supports personally relevant services and so encourages higher usage.
“The Aware program has broad vendor support and momentum and is important to this industry, which is a sign that things will happen quickly,” Davis-Felner said.