Digital televisions are among the first devices to adopt Wi-Fi Direct, a set of peer wireless networking protocols that enable compatible products to communicate directly, with or without a wireless access point or internet connection. A report forecasts that there will be 80 million digital televisions with Wi-Fi Direct enabled by 2015. Furthermore, it predicts that by 2014 every personal computer, consumer electronics device or mobile phone that ships with Wi-Fi will support the new standard.
In-Stat forecasts that more than 170 million devices with Wi-Fi Direct will ship in 2011, almost a fifth of the Wi-Fi products expected to be manufactured. Within a few years Wi-Fi Direct will be widely available in many types of consumer electronics product, including smart phones and televisions.
Wi-Fi Direct is a certification for devices that can connect with one another using a wireless network, without joining a traditional home, office or hotspot network access point.
Although Wi-Fi has long had limited support for ad-hoc networks, Wi-Fi Direct is designed to make it easier to print, share, synch and display, enabling mobile phones, cameras, printers, computers and gaming devices to connect to each other directly to transfer media and share applications.
Wi-Fi Direct competes with Bluetooth, which is generally more limited, although well-suited to applications such as wireless headsets.
A number of digital televisions, Blu-ray players, home theatre systems and smartphones from LG have already received the Wi-Fi Direct designation. A list of compatible devices is maintained on the Wi-Fi alliance web site.
A Wi-Fi Direct device effectively includes an embedded software access point and will signal to other local devices that it can make a direct connection. Compatible devices will include Wi-Fi Protected Setup, which means it can be as simple as pushing a button or entering an identification number displayed by the device to set up a secure connection.
Wi-Fi Direct devices will generally be able to work in the traditional Wi-Fi networking mode and interoperate with existing 802.11 Wi-Fi products. Some devices will be able to connect simultaneously to a group of Wi-Fi Direct devices and a regular infrastructure network.
It could make it easier to connect a smart phone or tablet or television display, to act as a controller or to exchange or synchronise media.
“The technology behind Wi-Fi Direct presents an incredibly compelling solution for digital home applications,” said Brian O’Rourke, Research Director of In-Stat. “As application developers define new solutions to run over Wi-Fi Direct connections, we expect to see a very strong adoption curve over the coming years.”
The potential applications demonstrate that a connected television is more than just a television that can connect to the internet to stream and download media and applications. For such purposes a wired connection may still be preferable. However, a network-connected television also becomes a large screen display that can be used to show and share a variety of media experiences.
This has been the case since the first videocassette recorders and video games consoles were connected to the television, but in the future there will be less need to mess around with clumsy cables and connections.
While a wireless network may not be able to deliver uncompressed high-definition video in the way that an HDMI connecting cable can, smart screens will be able to display digitally compressed images and video from other sources, or indeed make media available for display on other devices.
Wireless communication, which once defined radio and television, could yet further transform the television experience.
Wi-Fi Direct: It’s All About the Software is available form In-Stat and includes forecasts for Wi-Fi Direct penetration through to 2015. Free white papers on Wi-Fi Direct are available from the Wi-Fi Alliance web site.