Wi-Fi Direct: Wi-Fi without the Internet

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Wi-Fi Direct was formally known as Wi-Fi P2P, and it’s a standard enabling device to easily connect with each other without requiring a wireless access point.

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This technology allows two devices to establish a direct Wi-Fi connection without the use of a wireless router; therefore, it is termed as a single radio hop communication but not multi-hop wireless communication.

Wi-Fi becomes a way of communicating wirelessly, much like Bluetooth. It is useful for everything from internet browsing to file transfer and to communicate with one or more devices simultaneously at typical Wi-Fi speeds.

One advantage of Wi-Fi Direct is the ability to connect devices even if they are from different manufacturers. Only one of the Wi-Fi devices needs to be compliant with Wi-Fi Direct to establish a peer-to-peer connection that transfers data directly between them with a greatly reduced setup

Basic Wi-Fi

Basic/commonly known wireless networks basically use access points. These devices normally combine three primary functions as listed in the blocks below.

  • Physical support for wireless and wired networking
  • Bridging and routing between devices on the network
  • Service provisioning to add and remove devices from the network.

A typical Wi-Fi home network includes laptops, tablets, and phones, devices like modern printers, music devices, and televisions. The majority of Wi-Fi networks are set up in “infrastructure mode”, where the access point acts as a central hub to which Wi-Fi-capable devices are connected. The devices do not communicate directly with each other; instead, they go through the access point. Wi-Fi Direct devices are able to communicate with each other without requiring this access point.

The idea behind Wi-Fi Direct is that simple tasks need simple connections. Let’s say you want to print from your laptop or Smartphone to a wireless printer, share images with someone sitting across the room, or even send your holiday video from your phone to your TV.

None of these things require an active internet connection or an internet connection at all, but they do need to connect – to the printer, or to the other person’s hardware, or to the TV. With Wi-Fi Direct, that it’s easy.

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Why would you use Wi-Fi Direct?

We have seen what WI-FI Direct does; it simply connects one device without an internet connection to another device that has an internet connection in a way of eliminating a router in the connection. In this case, you can connect two devices and quickly transfer files without using cables. In simple terms, WI-FI Direct is a modified Bluetooth connection. The advantage of using Wi-Fi Direct over Bluetooth is that the Wi-Fi range and transfer speeds are significantly higher than those of Bluetooth

Wi-Fi Direct uses Wi-Fi Protected Setup

Just as you have password protection on your home network, you don’t want anyone unauthorized to connect to your network. You won’t want to see what the neighbors are beaming to their TV on your TV or do you want them being able to use your printer. Wi-Fi Direct uses Wi-Fi Protected Setup [PDF] and WPA2 to prevent unauthorized connections thus keeping your communications private

Wi-Fi Direct knows what’s nearby

There are two awesome features incorporated in Wi-Fi Direct. That is Device Discovery and Service Discovery. This means that devices won’t just know there are devices available; if developers have enabled it, your device will know what kind of devices are nearby and what’s on offer.

In another scenario, when you’re trying to display an image, you’ll only see devices that you can beam images to; if you want to print, you’ll only see devices that are or that are connected to printers.

Wi-Fi Direct uses the same silicon

Manufacturers don’t need to add extra radios to their kit: the idea is to have Wi-Fi Direct as part of the standard Wi-Fi radio. It’s backward compatible too, so you don’t need to throw out your old Wi-Fi-enabled kit.

How Exactly Does Wi-Fi Direct Work?

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A Wi-Fi Direct device itself behaves like an access point where any other Wi-Fi-enabled devices can connect. Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) is used to establish a connection between two devices where WPA2 encryption is used to make sure the most secure encryption method.

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The two devices can use Near Field Communication, Bluetooth, or a button press from both the devices to connect to each other.

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It is similar to ad-hoc connection, but Wi-Fi Direct is different in terms of having two useful functions; Wi-Fi Direct Discovery and Service Discovery. Using these functions, a Wi-Fi Direct device can know which types of devices are available nearby and what they intend to offer.

Suppose, you want to print an image, this discovery and service mode will only show you the devices that can perform the print task for you.

Devices that support WI-FI Direct

This is part of the Samsung Smartphone since the Android version 2.3 on the Galaxy S2 conditions applied can only connect to Samsung devices only. Google offers Wi-Fi Direct support to the entire Android version of phones since Android 4.0.

Game Consoles like Xbox One, NVIDIA support Wi-Fi Direct. Some TVs brands that include Wi-Fi Direct are Sony, LG, and Philips. (Please do check if a particular model of the mentioned brands carry this feature or not)

Uses of Wi-Fi Directs

The fundamental goal of Wi-Fi Direct is to render the most wireless connection to devices like smartphones, tablets, printers, etc. by simply bypassing the need for an internet connection, especially to do simple tasks like sharing pictures from the phone to the TV or with other family members sitting right next to you.

It as well provides a reliable connection between peripherals such as keyboards, remote control, speakers, printers, mice, headsets, and many other display devices.