By Kevin C. Tofel, GigaOM

Getting devices connected to share files or engage in multi-person apps looks like it’s going to get much easier based on Wi-Fi Direct, a new initiative from the Wi-Fi Alliance. The technology uses existing Wi-Fi radios for a direct, peer-to-peer connection between two or more Wi-Fi devices. No external router or access point is needed to get connected, and even older Wi-Fi devices can connect to Wi-Fi Direct certified gadgets. There are no messy configuration steps involved either; certified Wi-Fi direct devices can securely and seamlessly connect to each other whenever in range of each other.

Essentially, Wi-Fi Direct sounds like a simplified version of Bluetooth, but based on what I’ve seen, it’s even easier to use. It leverages the speeds and ranges of traditional Wi-Fi solutions; a laptop could shoot photos to a large screen television from hundreds of feet away, for example. Or, a Wi-Fi Blu-ray player in one room could pipe content to another room. That flexibility, combined with the simplicity and growth in devices shipping with Wi-Fi radios, makes this a technology worth watching. The number of consumer electronics and handsets with Wi-Fi radios is expected to grow by 26 percent a year through 2015, according to ABI Research.

Here at the Consumer Electronics Show, I got to see Wi-Fi Direct in action and snapped a short video of some demonstration applications. Using a platform called Qwarq, I saw Wi-Fi Direct apps such as chat and gaming between two devices to show off the peer-to-peer connectivity. The gaming app in particular demonstrated practically no latency and neither application required any configuration steps to connect the devices.

Bear in mind that these are just sample implementations; direct connection of two Wi-Fi Direct gadgets opens up a world of potential as a growing number of consumers want to move data and media to televisions, printers and laptops as easily as possible. In fact, with all the dual-core smartphones popping up with support for 1080p content playback, HDMI cables could be replaced through Wi-Fi Direct to get content on larger screens. The LG Optimus Black, for example, already has Wi-Fi Direct certification and support, so it could be a portable set-top box that doesn’t need a physical cable for television connections.

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