Wi-Fi, ZigBee, Miracast and Bluetooth: wireless networking on the move – without a router

Quite a while ago, I made the observation that wireless connection technologies were everywhere. Nothing has changed, of course. In fact there are even more wireless devices around and, with the advent of the Internet of Things, numbers will continue to increase drastically.

The term “wireless”, to some extent, means different things to different people, but it usually boils down to a data connection implemented using radio. But this description covers a wide range of technologies …

There are broadly three types of wireless data connection technology:

  1. Where each device connects to a central station [access point or router].
  2. Where each pair of devices establishes and one-to-one, point-to-point connection.
  3. Where each device can act as a relay, passing messages on to more remote devices.

Type (1) technologies are typified by Wi-Fi. A device just logs on to a nearby hot-spot and can then establish network connections with anything else connected to the access point – like the Internet. This is, of course, an everyday experience for most of us.

There are a number of type (2) technologies. Bluetooth has been around for some years and has been particularly popular for transporting digital audio, but has numerous other uses. Historically it has been challenged in low power applications, because two connected devices need to “talk” continuously to maintain the connection. The advent of Bluetooth Low Energy addresses this issue.

ZigBee is similar to Bluetooth, but was envisioned for industrial applications. It can also operate as a type (3) technology.

A number of proprietary wireless technologies are used to implement both type (2) [for example, my wireless mouse and keyboard] and type (3) [for example, my Sonos multi-room audio system].

Wi-Fi can also be used – and, indeed, increasingly is used – to implement a type (2) technology. A standard called Wi-Fi Direct enables two devices to connect without using an access point and communicate with expected performance. Miracast is another standard, which uses Wi-Fi Direct specifically to deliver video and audio [full HD and surround sound] wirelessly.

ImageCars are a context in which wireless technology has previously been limited to Bluetooth for cell phone usage. But that is set to change, as a combination of new low-cost technology, established standards and consumer demand come together to drive the development of a wide range of new devices and services for in-vehicle use. In a couple of days, a Web seminar will be available which looks at these technology trends. If you cannot attend at the time, a recording will be archived after the event.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at https://blogs.sw.siemens.com/embedded-software/2014/04/22/wi-fi-zigbee-miracast-and-bluetooth-wireless-networking-on-the-move-without-a-router/