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What Is Wi-Fi Direct? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

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It’s called Wi-Fi Direct, and it’s been around for over a decade, allowing for flexible peer-to-peer wireless connections.

What is Wi-Fi Direct? What can it do? Here’s what you need to know.

Wi-Fi Direct defined

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Wi-Fi Direct is a device-to-device communication protocol that connects devices without the need for a centralized network. The other device connects to the access point using the Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) and Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA/WPA2) security protocols. In the early 2000s, the standard was created and implemented in devices.

“Wait, that sounds like Bluetooth,” you might say, but while the two technologies appear to be similar at first glance, there are some key differences. One of the most significant advantages is that Wi-Fi Direct can handle more data at faster speeds than Bluetooth — up to 10 times faster in ideal conditions. When a peer-to-peer connection needs to transmit data-rich content, such as a high-resolution image or video — or when a Wi-Fi network is down — Wi-Fi Direct is a great choice.

One of the most appealing features of Wi-Fi Direct is its adaptability in situations where there is no Wi-Fi network to act as a go-between for devices. Multiple devices can connect to each other and share important files in both casual and emergency situations, without the security concerns (or the time-consuming process) that comes with connecting to a hub or central network first.

When you search for Wi-Fi Direct on a device, it will often appear with its own wireless network, usually beginning with “DIRECT” and followed by a product name or number.

Devices supported by Wi-Fi Direct

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Consumers have had access to Wi-Fi Direct for at least a decade, thanks to a 2011 update from the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) that included guidelines for the feature. Now, there are a plethora of compatible devices available, including some you might not have expected. Direct has been available on Android devices since version 2.3, and on Apple devices since iOS 7. (although Apple markets the feature under its own names, the familiar AirDrop and AirPlay).

Direct is also used by a number of entertainment devices to stream content or screencast from a mobile device. It’s available on Roku, and many smart TVs also have Wi-Fi Direct connections. Many peripherals that provide wireless connections may support Wi-Fi Direct rather than Bluetooth. Wireless headsets with high-fidelity audio and wireless printers are examples.

Wi-Fi Direct connections can be created in a variety of ways, depending on the device. You may be required to scan a QR code on some devices. Some systems require you to enter a numerical PIN. To establish a connection, you must press physical buttons on several devices. As security has become more important, more devices are employing a combination of these techniques, and fewer devices are connecting automatically.

What people use Wi-Fi Direct for

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Some of the most common uses of Wi-Fi Direct these days include:

Fast file sharing: Direct is an excellent way to quickly share large files with a friend or team when setting up wired connections isn’t feasible.

Photo printing on wireless printers: Direct can handle a large amount of wireless information, making it ideal for serious wireless printing jobs.

Screencasting and screen-sharing: From playing mobile games on a big screen to sharing family photos on your TV or digital portrait, Wi-Fi Direct is used for all sorts of screen-sharing tasks.

Playing games together: If everyone has the same game on their phones, they can connect with Direct and play along, even if there’s no Wi-Fi around.

Speedy syncing: Some devices will also use Wi-Fi Direct to sync their information and update their media. This feature can make the process much faster, especially if it has to add a lot of new media at the same time (think about updating old music playlists, for example).

Wi-Fi Direct and the Internet of Things (IoT)

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You might think that Wi-Fi Direct is a good technology for the Internet of Things based on what we’ve said so far. Wi-Fi Direct was discussed for smart home devices in the late 2000s and early 2010s when IoT connectivity was rapidly evolving. Wi-Fi Direct is now uncommon on the Internet of Things, as the two technologies have taken very different paths.

Wi-Fi Direct is all about making connections between two devices that aren’t connected to a wireless network and exist in their own space. Wi-Fi networks, on the other hand, have quickly supplanted older connection technologies like Zigbee and, yes, Wi-Fi Direct in the IoT. This is because today’s smart devices must be highly interconnected with one another in order to enable more complex scenes or management, and they must be easily accessed from a distance by people who are not at home. Wi-Fi Direct was unable to keep up.

Another reason Wi-Fi direct isn’t suitable for smart devices is that it has some security flaws, which become apparent when automatic connections are enabled. That’s something we should talk about.

Wi-Fi Direct and security

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Wi-Fi Direct offers few security benefits over other options, but it also poses few security risks. It can be dangerous to use a device connected to another network at the same time. There are risks involved when using a Direct connection on a device while connected to another network. Hackers can take down a link, and older protocols like WPS make it easier for them. You must understand how to keep your Direct connection safe. Wi-Fi Direct can be used by anyone to gain access to information.

Look into how Direct works with your device’s security and how to make it safer. Wi-Fi Direct connections are divided into two categories: temporary and persistent. A persistent connection allows you to save data on your device and connects it automatically. It’s convenient, but it poses a serious security risk. Because you can’t contact unknown devices, it’s best to keep persistent connections to a minimum. Temporary connections are more secure because they do not connect automatically. You can also use temporary pins.

Use newer Wi-Fi Direct connections with more security features and avoid using them in public. Hackers are always on the lookout for new ways to steal data. Hackers can access mobile devices via Wi-Fi Direct if they have Wi-Fi capabilities enabled, thanks to a recent bug in Linux devices.

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