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News recap: Wi-Fi Aware to connect nearby smartphones

New Wi-Fi Aware will enable smartphones within close proximity to communicate with each other; a new program will provide Internet access to public housing residents.

In this week's news, Wi-Fi Aware will enable peer-to-peer connection and interaction between two smartphones using proximity features without being near a hotspot. The Obama administration announced an initiative to provide free or low-cost Internet to public housing residents. And Verizon has partnered with Vice Media LLC, which will provide content for its new mobile video service.

Wi-Fi Aware to connect smartphones without network

The Wi-Fi Alliance recently kicked off a Wi-Fi Aware certification program, which could lead to having Wi-Fi Aware devices on store shelves by next year, according to Fortune.  Wi-Fi Aware is the next generation of Wi-Fi technology, allowing smartphone Wi-Fi radios to directly connect to one another when in range, rather than to a wireless network.  

Currently, services like Facebook and Tinder use proximity to detect nearby devices and to trigger social interaction, powered by GPS, which can locate a building, but not necessarily a specific area or floor within the building, the article said.

Wi-Fi Aware can specifically sense quickly converging or diverging devices and supply device discovery and a communications framework, Fortune said. Proximity features can then be built on top of that framework.  The technology will also have security features to protect consumers from being swamped with information from every nearby device.

Once Wi-Fi Aware devices scan for other nearby Wi-Fi devices, they will coordinate with one another to save power, the article said, "transmitting on the same schedule like a common heartbeat."

New program to offer Internet access to public housing residents

The Obama administration last week announced ConnectHome, a program to provide low-cost or free Internet access to public housing residents across the country. An estimated 275,000 households -- which include 200,000 children -- will be eligible for free Internet service, with broadband available in some locations for as little as $9.95 a month, The New York Times reported.

The eight service providers supplying public housing residents with Internet service for less than $10 a month in select cities include CenturyLink and Cox Communications Inc., Education Week reported. Google will also offer free Internet access to some public housing residents in Google Fiber markets, the article said.  

President Obama announced the program in Durant, Okla., the capital of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, where 32% of children live in poverty. Obama said it is unacceptable for young people not to have the same technology resources at home as those wealthier than they are.

ConnectHome will begin in 27 cities and in one Native American tribal area, with an emphasis on connecting school-age children. With oversight by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the program will involve city officials, eight Internet providers and at least one university. In some cities, Best Buy will offer computer training to residents, the Times reported.

Verizon adds Vice Media content to mobile video service

Verizon has made a deal with Vice Media to add entertainment content geared toward young people to its new mobile-first video service expected to launch this year. The multiyear deal, which was announced last week, will include Vice programs on food, travel and technology, as well as Vice shows created exclusively for Verizon, according to the New York Times.

Since taking on two large investors last year, Vice has signed multiple media partnerships, including deals with Home Box Office Inc. (HBO), Spotify AB and Snapchat Inc., in a large-scale effort to expand its brand, the Times reported.

 Verizon vice president Terry Denson said Vice is connecting a generation in a way no one else is.

Verizon, following its $4.4 billion acquisition of AOL Inc. in June, is looking to build up its new mobile video service, which will include live sporting events and content from the media company, AwesomenessTV, the Times reported. 

Next Steps

FCC looks into subsidized broadband

Verizon buys AOL to boost mobile technology

What are the risks of free public Wi-Fi?

Dig Deeper on Next-Gen Content Delivery and Video

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How do you think Wi-Fi Aware will impact smartphone interaction?
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If the technology is picked up by the right applications, I could see it following a similar path to texting. First it would make interaction simpler and more lightweight. As people appreciate that experience, carriers will make it a selling point for friends and family plans. I could see applications making use of the technology to help friends find each other at a large event and businesses enhancing the customer experience by pushing relevant deals in large retail spaces.  
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This makes me smile, as it reminds me of the days when I and my friends used to carry walkie-talkies when we'd snowboard so we could coordinate runs and communicate with each other. Due to the spotty cell reception in ski areas, many of us kept the WT devices because they were more reliable. It would be very cool to see this be able to close that gap with our smartphones :).
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