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A Peek at Wi-Fi's Future: Simpler and Faster

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Just as we were all getting used to the current generation of Wi-Fi, the next one is starting to hit stores. And even though it's not quite finished, engineers are already working on the generation after that.

But never fear. No need to be confused about which Wi-Fi device to buy next. The Wi-Fi Alliance, a trade group, is looking out for you.

When it stamps its "Wi-Fi-certified" label on a product, you can be assured that the product has been tested, approved and works with other next-generation devices plus all of your old Wi-Fi equipment.

"There's another big wave of enhancements coming from Wi-Fi," said Edgar Figueroa, CEO of the Wi-Fi Alliance. "People should be excited about it."

The Alliance, whose 530 members include nearly every company making Wi-Fi products, was founded in 1999 when variations of incompatible 802.11b (the technical name for the first variety of Wi-Fi) were floating around. The Alliance put an end to incompatibility between devices and for every 802.11 generation since, it questions, tests and retests every product heading to stores.

Figueroa filled us in with what's new and what's next in Wi-Fi:

Passpoint: Instant Security at Public Hotspots

If you've used Wi-Fi at an airport, café or other hotspot, the process takes a few steps, especially if encryption is involved. The new Passpoint technology eliminates manual interaction by allowing devices to instantly connect to hotspots at the highest security available.

One example of how Passport can work: When you step inside the café, Passport checks your credentials, notices you're an existing customer at the café or through another service (like home Internet) and then connects you automatically. If the provider also happens to be your home TV provider, you may get extra services at the public hotspot.

"Your phone or tablet will have your credentials. When you go to Starbucks (SBUX), it will send your credentials (to the hotspot) that say, 'I pay a premium for this show.' And the service provider will authenticate you and you'll get a better service. And if you don't have that, at least you'll be connected security," Figueroa said.

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