Computing Now Exclusive Content — November 2010

News Archive

July 2012

Gig.U Project Aims for an Ultrafast US Internet

June 2012

Bringing Location and Navigation Technology Indoors

May 2012

Plans Under Way for Roaming between Cellular and Wi-Fi Networks

Encryption System Flaw Threatens Internet Security

April 2012

For Business Intelligence, the Trend Is Location, Location, Location

Corpus Linguistics Keep Up-to-Date with Language

March 2012

Are Tomorrow's Firewalls Finally Here Today?

February 2012

Spatial Humanities Brings History to Life

December 2011

Could Hackers Take Your Car for a Ride?

November 2011

What to Do about Supercookies?

October 2011

Lights, Camera, Virtual Moviemaking

September 2011

Revolutionizing Wall Street with News Analytics

August 2011

Growing Network-Encryption Use Puts Systems at Risk

New Project Could Promote Semantic Web

July 2011

FBI Employs New Botnet Eradication Tactics

Google and Twitter "Like" Social Indexing

June 2011

Computing Commodities Market in the Cloud

May 2011

Intel Chips Step up to 3D

Apple Programming Error Raises Privacy Concerns

Thunderbolt Promises Lightning Speed

April 2011

Industrial Control Systems Face More Security Challenges

Microsoft Effort Takes Down Massive Botnet

March 2011

IP Addresses Getting Security Upgrade

February 2011

Studios Agree on DRM Infrastructure

January 2011

New Web Protocol Promises to Reduce Browser Latency

To Be or NAT to Be?

December 2010

Intel Gets inside the Helmet

Tuning Body-to-Body Networks with RF Modeling

November 2010

New Wi-Fi Spec Simplifies Connectivity

Expanded Top-Level Domains Could Spur Internet Real Estate Boom

October 2010

New Weapon in War on Botnets

September 2010

Content-Centered Internet Architecture Gets a Boost

Gesturing Going Mainstream

August 2010

Is Context-Aware Computing Ready for the Limelight?

Flexible Routing in the Cloud

Signal Congestion Rejuvenates Interest in Cell Paging-Channel Protocol

July 2010

New Protocol Improves Interaction among Networked Devices and Applications

Security for Domain Name System Takes a Big Step Forward

The ROADM to Smarter Optical Networking

Distributed Cache Goes Mainstream

June 2010

New Application Protects Mobile-Phone Passwords

WiGig Alliance Reveals Ultrafast Wireless Specification

Cognitive Radio Adds Intelligence to Wireless Technology

May 2010

New Product Uses Light Connections in Blade Server

April 2010

Browser Fingerprints Threaten Privacy

New Animation Technique Uses Motion Frequencies to Shake Trees

March 2010

Researchers Take Promising Approach to Chemical Computing

Screen-Capture Programming: What You See is What You Script

Research Project Sends Data Wirelessly at High Speeds via Light

February 2010

Faster Testing for Complex Software Systems

IEEE 802.1Qbg/h to Simplify Data Center Virtual LAN Management

Distributed Data-Analysis Approach Gains Popularity

Twitter Tweak Helps Haiti Relief Effort

January 2010

2010 Rings in Some Y2K-like Problems

Infrastructure Sensors Improve Home Monitoring

Internet Search Takes a Semantic Turn

December 2009

Phase-Change Memory Technology Moves toward Mass Production

IBM Crowdsources Translation Software

Digital Ants Promise New Security Paradigm

November 2009

Program Uses Mobile Technology to Help with Crises

More Cores Keep Power Down

White-Space Networking Goes Live

Mobile Web 2.0 Experiences Growing Pains

October 2009

More Spectrum Sought for Body Sensor Networks

Optics for Universal I/O and Speed

High-Performance Computing Adds Virtualization to the Mix

ICANN Accountability Goes Multinational

RFID Tags Chat Their Way to Energy Efficiency

September 2009

Delay-Tolerant Networks in Your Pocket

Flash Cookies Stir Privacy Concerns

Addressing the Challenge of Cloud-Computing Interoperability

Ephemeralizing the Web

August 2009

Bluetooth Speeds Up

Grids Get Closer

DCN Gets Ready for Production

The Sims Meet Science

Sexy Space Threat Comes to Mobile Phones

July 2009

WiGig Alliance Makes Push for HD Specification

New Dilemnas, Same Principles:
Changing Landscape Requires IT Ethics to Go Mainstream

Synthetic DNS Stirs Controversy:
Why Breaking Is a Good Thing

New Approach Fights Microchip Piracy

Technique Makes Strong Encryption Easier to Use

New Adobe Flash Streams Internet Directly to TVs

June 2009

Aging Satellites Spark GPS Concerns

The Changing World of Outsourcing

North American CS Enrollment Rises for First Time in Seven Years

Materials Breakthrough Could Eliminate Bootups

April 2009

Trusted Computing Shapes Self-Encrypting Drives

March 2009

Google, Publishers to Try New Advertising Methods

Siftables Offer New Interaction Model for Serious Games

Hulu Boxed In by Media Conglomerates

February 2009

Chips on Verge of Reaching 32 nm Nodes

Hathaway to Lead Cybersecurity Review

A Match Made in Heaven: Gaming Enters the Cloud

January 2009

Government Support Could Spell Big Year for Open Source

25 Reasons For Better Programming

Web Guide Turns Playstation 3 Consoles into Supercomputing Cluster

Flagbearers for Technology: Contemporary Techniques Showcase US Artifact and European Treasures

December 2008

.Tel TLD Debuts As New Way to Network

Science Exchange

November 2008

The Future is Reconfigurable

New Wi-Fi Spec Simplifies Connectivity

by George Lawton

The Wi-Fi alliance has begun certifying devices that support Wi-Fi Direct, a new mode of communication that eliminates the need for a wireless router. The technology promises to simplify connectivity to peripherals and between computers via a peer-to-peer network. Atheros, Broadcom, Intel, Ralink, and Realtek have all demonstrated Wi-Fi Direct devices.

The new protocol runs on existing Wi-Fi equipment and can be implemented as a software-only driver update, said Vijay Nagarajan, product line manager for Broadcom's WLAN business unit. The first applications will be for simplifying connectivity with peripherals. But Nagarajan said they're working on APIs and development tools to make it easier to implement Wi-Fi connect functionality in novel ways. For example, collaborative document editing and presentation applications could let people collaborate without a dedicated LAN. A mesh-networking application could use the protocol to create ad hoc links to form larger networks.

More than 1 billion Wi-Fi devices are in use today, and another 1 billion are expected to ship in 2011, according to market research firm ABI Research. Although these devices won't necessarily be upgraded to support Wi-Fi Direct, all of them will be capable of connecting directly to Wi-Fi Direct devices.

Simplifying the Link

Wi-Fi has become very popular as a short-range technology used for Internet access and for connecting smart phones, peripherals, and laptops within a home or office. However, Wi-Fi access typically requires users to access a wireless network access point, which poses a variety of limitations and challenges relating to availability and configuration.

Many existing Wi-Fi devices support an ad hoc mode, but these connections are slow (11 Mbps) and difficult to set up. Wi-Fi Direct networks will be easier to set up and will scale to support up to 250 Mbps. Devices with Wi-Fi Direct can be automatically paired using hardware-activated switches for security, in much the same way Bluetooth pairing is done today. For example, someone could press a button on the printer and wait for a menu icon to pop up on the computer to complete the pairing. The new mode also features built-in Wi-Fi protected access (WPA) security, which makes it easier to establish secure connections between devices.

Wi-Fi Direct certification requires support for 802.11 g, WPA2-Personal, Wi-Fi Multimedia, and Wi-Fi Protected Setup. All Wi-Fi Direct devices will be able to support one-to-one connectivity, and some will support one-to-many connectivity, such as a laptop connecting to peripherals. Optional support for concurrent connections could let a PC provide Internet access for TVs, cameras, and legacy printers. New management features will help prevent cross-connections that jeopardize security.

A Wi-Fi Direct device will be able to simulate an access point to legacy devices and so provide backward compatibility. But these types of connections will require more technical skill to set up than it does when both devices support Wi-Fi Direct.

Many Wireless Challengers

The development of Wi-Fi Direct pushes Wi-Fi technology into a whole new class of applications that let it compete with other protocols for media transfers and peripheral links, such as Bluetooth, said Craig Mathias, president of the Farpoint Group wireless consultancy. "This positions Wi-Fi into the personal area networking space that has traditionally been Bluetooth territory. But before that there was IrDA."

Many expect the technologies to co-evolve to solve different networking challenges. "Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth are extremely complementary to each other," Nagarajan said. "You can think of use cases where you could use Bluetooth or Wi-Fi depending on the applications." For example, Bluetooth is extremely power efficient, but only goes up to 25 Mbps over short ranges. In contrast, Wi-Fi Direct will be able to carry up to 250 Mbps over hundreds of feet.

In the long run, this new mode could find itself in more demanding applications, such as video distribution, replacing alternatives such as WirelessHD, said Phil Solis, research director at ABI. He expects the technology to eventually support the higher speed Wi-Fi running on top of 802.11ad at 60 GHz.

Building the Wi-Fi Direct Ecosystem

The successful certification of the first devices marks a major milestone, as vendors now have a process to quickly test new drivers for compliance. Nagarajan said that all the major vendors are working on adding drivers for legacy devices. This will make it easy to upgrade computers, smart phones, and other configurable devices to Wi-Fi Direct.

But to get the most use from Wi-Fi Direct, software developers will have to develop new applications. Toward that end, Broadcom has release a suite of APIs for simplifying Wi-Fi Direct across all devices. It has also released a more sophisticated suite of tools called InConcert Maestro that makes it easy to seamlessly manage both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.

"Wi-Fi Direct can connect to legacy devices, so it has the potential for amazing uptake," said Sarah Morris, senior marketing manager at the Wi-Fi Alliance. "Then, as more Wi-Fi Direct devices get out there, we'll get richer device discovery right out of the box. The next generation of applications will be very exciting with the opportunity to innovate on top of that with gaming and social applications."

For more information, visit the Wi-Fi direct home page at

George Lawton is a freelance journalist based in Guerneville, CA. You can contact him via his website at