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More products support Wi-Fi Direct, but will anyone use it?

More products support Wi-Fi Direct, but will anyone use it?

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Hundreds of products are now certified for Wi-Fi Direct, but is anyone using the wireless tech? And what will it take to get consumers to care?

The Wi-Fi Alliance has now certified more than 550 products for Wi-Fi Direct, the peer-to-peer networking technology that allows devices to communicate without the need for an Internet connection. According to the Alliance's database, Wi-Fi Direct-enabled products include chipsets, smartphones, TVs and more. However, despite momentum at the certification level, most consumers haven't even heard of the technology yet, much less started using it.

In a Wi-Fi Direct forecast last year, analyst firm In-Stat pointed out that the key to the technology's success will be software applications that make it valuable to consumers - applications like easier wireless printing, and the ability to zap a photo from one phone to another with just a point and click. Unfortunately, early products certified for Wi-Fi Direct didn't promote compelling features, and it’s only recently that companies have started to launch products with a head nod toward Wi-Fi Direct’s advantages. Take the new Samsung DualView DV300F camera. It touts a wireless “Auto PC Backup function.” Any pictures mom takes can be automatically backed up to a home PC without removing the microSD card or connecting a cable.

Luckily, in addition to better marketing, there are several other factors that could give Wi-Fi Direct a much-needed boost in the near future.

First, the number of connected devices as a whole is on the rise, as manufacturers seek to add IP connectivity to everything from cameras to tablets and TVs. The Wi-Fi Alliance also threw its lot in with the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) last November, ensuring that DLNA-certified devices now also support Wi-Fi Direct.

Second the amount of digital content available is growing, and consumers increasingly want to share their photos, movies, games and more across multiple screens, which Wi-Fi Direct can enable.

Third, more Wi-Fi Direct devices are still on the way. In-Stat predicts that every connected device with Wi-Fi will ship with Wi-Fi Direct by 2014. Given that Wi-Fi Direct devices are also backwards-compatible with other Wi-Fi products, that means a huge number of consumer electronics will be capable of connecting over local wireless networks without the Internet. Only one device in each wireless pairing has to be Wi-Fi Direct-enabled.

For more on Wi-Fi Direct, see the Wi-Fi Alliance website for educational materials, and a list of certified products.

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Mari Silbey

Contributing Editor

Mari Silbey is an independent tech writer based in Washington, D.C. With a background in cable and telecom, she's a contributor to several trade publications, and part of the GigaOM analyst network. She also writes for the long-running digital media blog Zatz Not Funny, and has written for both corporate and association clients focused on broadband networks, mobile apps, and video delivery. She's a graduate of Duke University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure