The Wi-Fi Alliance has announced Wi-Fi Aware, a new service allowing for easier discovery of devices, applications, and information. Wi-Fi Aware, which will be Wi-Fi Certified in a number of products later in 2015, broadcasts to other devices to see if there’s a match, and if so, enables social applications such as gaming, peer-to-peer messaging, and location-specific services including contextual notifications.
Connecting without a network, similar to FireChat
At first glance, Wi-Fi Aware is similar to Open Garden’s FireChat app, which uses Bluetooth and Apple’s multipeer connectivity framework to connect smartphones directly, without requiring a cellular or Wi-Fi network. Like FireChat, Wi-Fi Aware communicates point-to-point, so a network isn’t necessary; use cases include connecting to other users at concerts or on trains to share photos or play games – that is, situations where access to a cellular or Wi-Fi network might not exist.
However, Wi-Fi Aware goes slightly further than FireChat, which is primarily a messaging app, in that it allows for broadcasting from one user to many, as well as gaming and location services, including contextual notifications and proximity assessment. It is also designed to minimize power consumption. On the security side, connections are completely broken when a session between users ends, and have to be re-established if the users wish to connect again. As such, it is not a networking technology per se.
Wi-Fi Aware’s key advantage is that it will allow for greater amounts of data to be transferred between connections, by using Wi-Fi rather than Bluetooth technology. On the other hand, FireChat operates by allowing multi-hop connections, where the network grows stronger the more users are connected (similar to mesh networks used in Internet of Things applications).
In essence, however, Wi-Fi Aware’s location services also give it a way to compete with another Bluetooth-based technology, namely beacons, and to pull the location-specific and peer-to-peer communication aspects into a single solution. This effectively means that Wi-Fi is expanding its use cases to compete directly with Bluetooth, and to keep its proposition in line with how consumers connect to one another.
“On the Radar: FireChat,” TE0001-000868 (August 2014)
Francesco Radicati, Senior Analyst, Digital Services