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An Overview of Wi-Fi Aware

The Wi-Fi Alliance has launched a certification program recently for a new standard and technology known as Wi-Fi Aware. This program is for a technology which works with smartphone’s in built Wi-Fi sensing capabilities letting the Wi-Fi Aware devices discover each other before they get connected. This technology is similar to Bluetooth Beacons, sending smartphone information when you go close enough to connect with them wirelessly.

wifi aware

The battle for proximity based awareness technology has just started. It’s not just the manufacturers who are pulling out the big guns. “Wi-Fi Aware exemplifies the continued innovation in our industry and our commitment to a terrific Wi-Fi user experience”, pointed out Edgar Figueroa, the CEO and the President of Wi-Fi Alliance.

Wi-Fi Aware is Different from Other Available Technologies

Based on Neighbor Awareness Networking (NAN) Technical Specification, it allows the devices discover closeby information as well as services initiating interaction with services and people. It works without connecting to any wireless access point. As soon as a device locates an interesting service, it will initiate a high-performance Wi-Fi connection. This means that the devices employing Wi-Fi Aware can exchange information about apps and services nearby in a data and energy efficient fashion.

Most existing technologies conduct one-way communication. Wi-Fi Aware supports two-way communication with other enabled services allowing a bi-directional exchange of information.

Pros and Cons of Wi-Fi Aware

As Wi-Fi Aware is not very old, its tough to say how exactly it will play out. However, we can take cues from other experiments to speculate on the advantages and disadvantages of Wi-Fi Aware.

  • The Wi-Fi Aware protocol can make applications like geo-social networking, multiplayer gaming and file sharing secure and fast. The airport gates can make the boarding pass appear automatically. Most location aware applications use the GPS of the device, phone tower and the Wi-Fi hotspot details for calculating the position. It makes use of Wi-Fi or cellular data to send the information. Next, we get the data with the application unpacking and neatly displaying the data through its interface. Wi-Fi Aware is all set to open up a new level of efficiency with the aid of close range user to user connectivity over the 5GHz and 2.4 GHz frequency bands.
  • A commonly cited example is shopping mall. Imagine taking a walk at the mall and being notified of nearby sales at your preferred outlets. If it’s really crowded while shopping on Black Friday, Wi-Fi Aware can easily pinpoint the location of your lost friends and family members.
  • Let’s say you are taking a walk in a bustling city street. Wouldn’t it be great if your phone could alert you if your old friend is sitting on a bench just along the corner? The possibilities are limitless with this technology.

However, this is not perfect.

  • Battery life is a significant concern. Though Wi-Fi Aware is pointed out to be power efficient, more efficient than traditional Wi-Fi, it’s not hard to guess that any Wi-Fi Aware device will use up more energy than devices without Wi-Fi Aware. Unless the battery consumption is brought down, things will be quite problematic as the users are already looking for ways to improve laptop and smartphone battery life.
  • Security is a concern. Wi-Fi Aware is in fact quite vulnerable to security exploits and attacks. With so much interconnectivity, it’s tough to assume that there won’t be any loopholes.
  • With security, comes in privacy concerns. No doubt, Wi-Fi Aware is possible to be toggled on and off by the users, but don’t you think it will soon be so engrained in culture that you will forget to turn it off? It’s hard to guess how much information are you giving away and how much information is used against you.

How is it Used

Till now, the common examples cited are social gaming applications, product locator inside the marketplace and as a friend finder. Proximity is a significant element in mobile connected experiences today and the proximity-based applications benefit of the new capabilities of Wi-Fi Aware. Wi-Fi Aware will make the user’s environment more interactive and dynamic.

There is no doubt that Wi-Fi Aware will result in a few really cool products and applications and you will begin experiencing the newer developments soon.

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Steven Scheck is the Principal of Inspire WiFi, the nationwide leader of multifamily wifi and healthcare wifi. When he isn't bringing Wi-Fi to the masses, he enjoys spending time and traveling with his wife and 4 kids and occasionally gets in a round of golf. He is also very involved in philanthropic causes in Miami and nationally.

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