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Mobile P2P Advances with Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth

Connectivity protocols in mobile devices and other consumer electronics (CE) are finding new growth through evolving wireless communication standards. Two key short-range protocols, Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth v4.0 -- or Bluetooth Low Energy, BLE -- are benefitting from the activities of the Bluetooth SIG and the Wi-Fi Alliance.

The goal of these groups is to simplify and standardize device implementation for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), increasing the protocol's capabilities and pushing them into new devices and vertical applications.

They provide a way for CE OEM priorities to be factored into these competing (yet complementary) protocols.

"To remain competitive against their short-range competitors in mobile devices, connectivity protocols must advance their capabilities," says ABI Research senior analyst Michael Morgan.

Space, power, and cost are serious concerns in mobile device design. That's why a connectivity protocol must perform its role efficiently, or it risks being excluded from OEM design considerations.

BLE is expected to ride alongside the massive adoption of earlier versions in handsets and other devices. The low power sensors can be added to health and fitness monitoring devices and deliver a new addressable market for Bluetooth to serve.

Wi-Fi Direct offers peer-to-peer (P2P) communication capabilities similar to Bluetooth's applications. As Wi-Fi continues to penetrate into all manner of devices and consumer electronics, it gains potential to replace Bluetooth in certain device segments (eg. remote controls, Bluetooth headsets).

According to the latest market study by ABI Research, Wi-Fi Direct device shipments will experience a 50 percent CAGR from 2011 to 2016 -- and ship 2 billion devices in 2016. Not to be outdone, total BLE device shipments (both dual and single mode) will grow at a 61 percent CAGR -- to ship 2.9 billion devices in 2016.

ABI Vice President Kevin Burden said there's a prominent exception, "Another short-range technology, NFC's mobile wallet function, is not benefitting from an industry body's drive to standards: the NFC Forum takes the position that the marketplace is the best arena for that process."

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