It looks we’re on the verge of another one of those Wi-Fi features that seems like (maybe?) it’s a good thing for wireless users of a certain mindset, but perhaps not so much for those of us in the business of business WLAN. The topic is Wi-Fi Aware, and it’s time we wireless administrator types started paying attention- before the expected deluge of devices later this year or early next.
I’ll start by admitting I know that I don’t know a lot about Wi-Fi Aware, but I’m trying to grasp the potential implications from both the client and system ends. I do know that Wi-Fi Aware is being touted as both a services discovery mechanism for seeing what your fellow clients are capableof, and is something akin to beacons for location-based triggering except with a much longer range. Supposedly, the framework is opt-in/out per application, and you share whether your device advertises or accepts interactions with other wireless users. There aren’t yet many client devices out with the capability, but they will definitely come in the months to come.
Wi-Fi Aware is stirring up a lot of media attention, but before I share a couple of examples, it’s worth pointing out that this is yet another baby of the Wi-Fi Alliance. If you want to start learning about Wi-Fi Aware, I recommend you first visit the Alliance’s pages on it:
- Wi-Fi Aware overview
- Products that are Wi-Fi Aware certified
- Wi-Fi Awareness Technical Specs download (login required)
Because it’s new, there is a lot of speculation about how Wi-Fi Aware might get used, but little in the way of real-world example yet. Nonetheless, here are a couple of speculative articles to prime the pump: Wi-FI Aware and the IoT, and all your devices will connect instantly. There are plenty more to be found with simple Internet search.
It’s way too early to form a reality-based opinion on Wi-Fi Aware, but I can tell you one thing that makes me a bit uncomfortable. Like with many of it’s initiatives, the Wi-Fi Alliance does no real favors to enterprise Wi-Fi folks with early hype on Wi-Fi Aware. This feature set is very much client to client before and outside of the clients actually being on the WLAN- which means it’s one more thing the WLAN is likely to get blamed for when some aspect of Wi-Fi Aware doesn’t work as expected. It would be great if the Alliance would go so far as to say:
- Here’s what it means to home wireless networks
- Here’s what it means to public wireless networks
- Here’s what it means to captive portal Wi-Fi networks
- Here’s what it means to 802.1x secure WLAN
Given that client-to-client actions can trigger attempts to join and use Wi-Fi infrastructure networks, it would be great if some of the nitty-gritty was shared up front rather than left to admins to suffer through.
Here’s where I’ll admit to being a bit pissy about the Wi-Fi Alliance. I’m pleased that they are so into new feature sets and the like, but it very much feels like they have pretty much turned their backs on the enterprise wireless demographic in favor of simply pushing product to non-business consumers.
Where the consumer and enterprise worlds collide, it’s up to the WLAN admin to clean up the frequent messes while the Alliance either stays quiet or simply pipes up with a Neanderthal-like “Wi-Fi good. Buy more Wi-Fi”.
Let’s hope Wi-Fi Aware proves to be more friendly to the enterprise than I’m expecting. Meanwhile, it’s time to start learning about it.
Have you formed any opinions yet about Wi-Fi Aware? Do you have any expected business use cases in mind? Have you found any decent technical articles that help explain what Wi-Fi Aware might really be about? Please share, and thanks for reading.