broadcom Broadcom goes Wi Fi Direct crazy at Computex

You might be wondering what Wi-Fi Direct is and to put it in really simple terms, it does pretty much what Bluetooth does, just at Wi-Fi speeds. Ok, so it's not quite that simple, but at least it's the basic theory of how it works and Broadcom was showing off some really cool demoes at Computex of where it envisages we will see Wi-Fi Direct used.

You might be wondering what Wi-Fi Direct is and to put it in really simple terms, it does pretty much what Bluetooth does, just at Wi-Fi speeds. Ok, so it's not quite that simple, but at least it's the basic theory of how it works and Broadcom was showing off some really cool demoes at Computex of where it envisages we will see Wi-Fi Direct used.

We have to apologise for the lack of pictures, but we weren't allowed to take any as the demos we were shown were all held in a private meeting area. That said, most of them were very simple and shouldn't be too complex to understand.

The first demo was a simple two laptop setup where a private peer-to-peer network could be set up and files could be shared for collaboration purposes. Some extra software was needed for this to work as far as the file exchange was concerned, but the way Wi-Fi Direct has been implemented, only one of the two notebooks need to support Wi-Fi Direct for something like this to be doable.

Another demo was a lot more visual, as it involved a Wi-Fi Direct compatible smartphone, in this case a model from Samsung that was used to record some video with. Click an icon in the software and the phone connected to a laptop nearby and started to play back the just recorded video on the laptop screen. Again, some extra software was required on the laptop to make the two devices communicated and of course, the two devices had already been paired up.

However, these where the really basic demos, what we got to see after this really made an impression on us and shows how underutilized Wi-Fi really is. Neither of the products we got to see has been announced as yet, although Broadcom told us that they expect both to be available later this year.

First up was something that looked like a USB dongle, although it was just a bare PCB. Upon closer inspection it turned out that the dongle had an HDMI port where we expected to find a USB port. The dongle turned out to be a Wi-Fi to HDMI solution which with the help of some third party software allowed for streaming of H.264 encoded video straight from a notebook to any HDMI equipped TV. There's also support for DLNA, so any DLNA compliant device can stream video to it. The only downside is that the dongle needs to be powered, but Broadcom's reference design used a mini USB port for power and if your TV happens to have a USB port, you could power the dongle from it.

The next solution took things to the next level, as it was pretty much the reverse of the HDMI dongle, namely an HDMI to Wi-Fi solution which enables any device that can output an HDMI signal to stream it over Wi-Fi. Broadcom had hooked up a Blu-ray player and a tablet for this demo and could stream video from both devices to a Wi-Fi enabled TV.

It's work keeping in mind that both of these solutions could only stream 720p video at the moment, but the goal is to be able to do 1080p. Unlike Intel's Wireless Display or WiDi solution, Broadcom doesn't require that the notebook is equipped with a Broadcom Wi-Fi card. That said, a 2T2R MIMO Wi-Fi card would enable support for higher quality video, but any 802.11n solution would be good enough for basic functionality.

One of the big advantages of Wi-Fi direct is that only one of the devices needs to support it, in most circumstances and most of the Wi-Fi chip makers are releasing driver updates for their current products to enable Wi-Fi Direct support, as it really is just a software upgrade. We'll hopefully be seeing a lot of support for Wi-Fi Direct in the future and we can't wait to see some more innovative Wi-Fi Direct solutions hitting the market later this year.