What is Wi-Fi Direct and How Does It Work?
More and more new devices are using Wi-Fi Direct. Wi-Fi Direct allows two devices to establish a direct, peer-to-peer Wi-Fi connection without requiring a wireless router. Wi-Fi becomes a way of communicating wirelessly, like Bluetooth.
Wi-Fi Direct is similar in concept to “ad-hoc” Wi-Fi mode. However, unlike an ad-hoc Wi-Fi connection, Wi-Fi Direct includes an easier way to automatically discover nearby devices and connect to them.
The Miracast wireless display standard also uses Wi-Fi Direct. Peripherals, such as mice and keyboards, could also communicate via Wi-Fi Direct. Wi-Fi Direct could be used to remotely connect to a wireless printer without requiring the printer to join an existing wireless network. Android also includes built-in support for Wi-Fi Direct, although few applications are using it just yet.
How It Works
Wi-Fi Direct uses a number of standards to accomplish its functions:
- Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi Direct uses the same Wi-Fi technology that Wi-Fi-enabled devices use to communicate with wireless routers. A Wi-Fi Direct device can essentially function as an access point, and other Wi-Fi-enabled devices can connect directly to it. This is already possible with ad-hoc networking, but Wi-Fi Direct extends this feature with easy setup and discovery features.
- Wi-Fi Direct Device and Service Discovery: This protocol gives Wi-Fi Direct devices a way to discover each other and the services they support before connecting. For example. a Wi-Fi Direct device could see all compatible devices in the area and then narrow down the list to only devices that allow printing before displaying a list of nearby Wi-Fi Direct-enabled printers.
- Wi-Fi Protected Setup: When two devices connect to each other, they automatically connect via Wi-Fi Protected Setup, or WPS. We can only hope that device makers use a secure connection method for this WPS connection and not the extremely insecure WPS PIN method.
- WPA2: Wi-Fi Direct devices use WPA2 encryption, which is the most secure way of encrypting Wi-Fi.Wi-Fi Direct may also be referred to as Wi-Fi peer-to-peer or Wi-Fi P2P, as it functions in peer-to-peer mode. Wi-Fi Direct devices connect directly to each other rather than through a wireless router.
…While Wi-Fi Direct is theoretically supposed to be a standard that allows multiple types of devices supporting the Wi-Fi Direct standard to communicate with each other, this hasn’t really happened just yet.
For example, you may have two new laptops, each advertised as supporting Wi-Fi Direct. You might assume there’d be a way to set up easy file-sharing between them using Wi-Fi Direct, but you’d be wrong at the moment. There’s also no easy way to connect an Android smartphone to a Windows laptop and actually do much just yet. For now, Wi-Fi Direct isn’t a feature you should really concern yourself with. In the future, this may become a more useful standard.
Wi-Fi Direct is a promising feature that’s already working in the real world. However, it has a long way to go before it’s actually an interoperable standard normal people can rely on. At the moment, it’s just a way for specifically designed products to communicate with each other.