Wi-Fi-enabled devices currently need to speak to each other through a router. The Wi-Fi Alliance said it is working on a new specification for peer-to-peer Wi-Fi connections called Wi-Fi Direct.

The Wi-Fi Alliance said it is nearing completion of the new spec. The schedule calls for certification of the specification in mid-2010. Products could be commercialized by the end of the year, or early in 2011.

The new version of Wi-Fi will be backwards-compatible with extant versions, so they will all be able to connect. Devices will be able to make a one-to-one connection, or a group of several devices can connect simultaneously, the alliance said.

The alliance anticipates this new version of Wi-Fi might be used in many devices where current Wi-Fi is already integrated – computers, printers and cameras, for example, but also in mobile phones and human interface devices such as keyboards and headphones.

In other words, the new spec will operate in many of the same places as Bluetooth. Reports suggest that users will have to balance the convenience of relying on a single communications protocol (Wi-Fi) against a penalty of higher power consumption.

The specification targets both consumer electronics and enterprise applications, provides management features for enterprise environments and includes WPA2 security. Devices that support the specification will be able to discover one another and advertise available services. Wi-Fi-certified Wi-Fi Direct devices will support typical Wi-Fi ranges and the same data rates as can be achieved with an infrastructure connection, so devices can connect from across a home or office, the alliance said.

Only Wi-Fi Alliance member companies will be able to certify devices to the new specification. Among the scores of alliance members are Apple, Cisco, Broadcom, Intel, Sony, Microsoft, Arris, Rogers and BT.

According to a new report from ABI Research, when it comes to home networking, wireless connections will remain the dominant technology. Wi-Fi connections in consumer electronics devices will rise from 113 million in 2008 to more than 285 million by 2012, ABI predicts.

Ethernet will remain a strong second-place technology, as it is often integrated in the silicon and does not add a significant amount to the bill of materials costs. Over time, powerline, coax and high-speed wireless connections will show growth in adoption, especially among service providers, ABI said.

“While many consumer electronics devices initially adopted Ethernet connections due to cost and potential wireless connectivity issues, Wi-Fi has become the dominant LAN connection type in several device categories,” said ABI digital home practice director Jason Blackwell. “Now we’re seeing Wi-Fi making its way more aggressively into components, including digital televisions.”

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