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Christopher Mims

A View from Christopher Mims

Wi-Fi Without a Base Station

Devices like the Ozmo2000 will turn everything with a Wi-Fi radio into a direct channel for wireless communication.

  • July 15, 2010

The recently-announced Ozmo2000 chip is the first device that purports to support the not-yet finalized WiFi Direct standard. WiFi Direct promises to end the dependence of WiFi devices on nearby base stations: instead, they’ll communicate directly with each other, advertising their presence, setting up ad-hoc networks and even hooking up with old school WiFi enabled devices.

WiFi Direct and chips like the Ozmo2000 will end the conundrum of why an iPhone (for example) can’t wirelessly connect directly to a nearby laptop when both aren’t in range of a base station.

So-called WiFi Personal Area Networks such as Intel’s My WiFi already allow a version of this functionality, but it’s limited - it only works between a laptop with Intel’s Centrino chip running Windows 7 and a short list of approved devices.

WiFi Direct is supposed to be the higher-bandwidth, longer-range, more secure successor to the Bluetooth communication standard that already enables our keyboards, mice and headsets to communicate with our laptops and headsets.

In that mold, the Ozmo2000 chip, which initially only works with laptops running Windows 7, allows a laptop to connect wirelessly, via WiFi, to keyboards, mice and any other devices with a small add-on Ozmo radio - one that will be built into the device and will be available in peripherals starting in 2011.

More importantly, software updates should allow the Ozmo2000 chip will to connect via WiFi Direct once the standard is finalized.

This means, for example, that cell phones will be able to connect to one another via ad-hoc WiFi networks for data transfers or simple push notifications. Walking by a neighborhood cafe could mean you’re pushed a coupon for a free coffee, for instance, or driving by the community theater could mean that you get a flyer for upcoming shows.

Also, in theory, keyboards could start connecting to keyboards, headsets to headsets, keyboards to printers, iPods to wireless mice, etc. It’ll be like the apocalypse, with all manner of unholy couplings.

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