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WiFi Aware enables instant local device communication

The WiFi Alliance has unveiled its new WiFi Aware specification, which enables nearby devices to communicate without an Internet connection.

Published onJuly 15, 2015

WiFi coffee shutterstock

WiFi may empower us to do clever things but the technology itself isn’t that smart. It doesn’t communicate anything meaningful until a full connection has been established, which means that it can’t tell us useful pieces of information about the service that we want to connect to. However, the newly unveiled WiFi Aware specification aims to change this.

WiFi Aware enables certified products to discover and communicate with other nearby devices without relying on an internet connection, sort of like Bluetooth Low Energy or Qualcomm’s LTE Direct. Devices will continually broadcast small packets of information, which could allow applications to push notifications to other devices or provide information to a user about a nearby service, person or business, all before making a regular WiFi connection.

WiFi Aware is part of the growing trend towards smaller hubs connected up to the larger Internet of Things. This could power all sorts of simple conveniences, such as turning on you lights when you’re in range of your home WiFi or finding a nearby shop which stocks your favorite products.

A key part of the idea is contextual data. We don’t want to be bombarded with all of the information from variously nearby networks. Instead, users will have control over the type of data they are alerted too and the data that push to other devices, a filter if you will. WiFi Aware devices know about everything in close proximity, but only connects to relevant sources of information.

Privacy and the impact on battery life are sensible concerns, but Edgar Figueroa, President of the WiFi Alliance, says that WiFi Aware is very power efficiency and consumes less energy than traditional WiFi. As for privacy, apps that use the service will have opt in/out settings, and the lack of an instant Internet connection offers some extra protection.

The first wave of WiFi Aware gadgets and applications not here just yet, but Broadcom, Intel, Marvel and Realtek already have certified chips for future gadgets. Social networks could roll out applications with Wi-Fi Aware before the end of the year.

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