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

Stocks in this article: BRCM AAPL NTGR SBUX

But keep in mind, Passpoint isn't built just for consumers. Companies, like cable TV and mobile-phone services, hope to make money off it. They could use it to for marketing purposes and charge monthly fees to customers who want that convenient hotspot option.

Miracast: Simpler Screen Sharing

Miracast is a simpler way to share video or other media between two devices wirelessly. Sharing could connect automatically or with the press of a button. While this may sound similar to DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) or Apple's (AAPL) Airplay, the key difference is Miracast works without a Wi-Fi network. It's not proprietary and multiple companies are backing the technology and want to put it in their set-top boxes, TVs and other screens. Also key: Miracast works with Hollywood movies and copy-protected material.

Technically, Miracast is built on top of Wi-Fi Direct, a technology that allows two devices to securely connect over Wi-Fi without being near a Wi-Fi hotspot. Miracast focuses on video and screens so, for example, if the kids are hogging the living-room TV, parents can stream their favorite channel from a compatible set-top box to a tablet computer.

The Alliance just began certifying devices. Expect more Miracast-ready devices -- including the LG Optimus G smartphone and Samsung Echo-P Series TV -- to show up later this year. Market researcher IHS iSuppli projects 1.5 billion Miracast devices will ship in 2016.

802.11ac: More Than Double the Speed of Wireless N

This new version of Wi-Fi more than doubles the performance and speeds common today. But it's so new -- and won't be final until mid-2013 -- it doesn't even have a name. Most call it 802.11ac.

The first "draft AC" routers began popping up last spring, thanks to chipmakers like Broadcom (BRCM). Speed claims are at 1-gigabit per second, compared to today's Wireless N technology, at 450-megabits per second. Faster speeds mean faster streaming of high-definition video and audio and no lag in gaming activities. (In reality, Wi-Fi speeds are never as fast as touted due to many factors, like wireless interference, walls and distance.)

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