Technology Explained

Wi-Fi Aware: What’s It About, And How Can You Use It?

Joel Lee 24-08-2015

Can you imagine what life would be like without Wi-Fi? Everything is wireless these days, and we’ve evolved so far beyond the point of being hardwired that cables almost feel primitive. Wi-Fi was truly a revolutionary step forward, and it just got even better.


This new development has been dubbed Wi-Fi Aware and is set to change the way we live. It’ll be a while before we really start seeing the benefits play out, but the future is close enough that we should be preparing ourselves for what’s to come.

What is Wi-Fi Aware and how does it affect you? Let’s find out.

Wi-Fi Aware: For Your Convenience

Wi-Fi Aware, sometimes shortened to just Aware, is the culmination of a lot of research and development by some of the biggest companies around the world. We’re talking Microsoft, Apple, Samsung, Cisco, and all the other participating members of the Wi-Fi Alliance.

The basic idea behind Wi-Fi Aware is that devices and applications will automatically be able to discover and communicate with each other based on proximity alone — and because these connections are performed internally over Wi-Fi, no cellular data or Internet bandwidth will be wasted.

Here’s how it works: Wi-Fi Aware devices can act as publishers, subscribers, or both. Publisher devices persistently broadcast a signal that indicates permission to connect. Subscriber devices persistently search for publishers, and when found, will initiate a connection request.



Users will be able to toggle Wi-Fi Aware functionality on the fly.

It’s a refined example of the Internet of Things What Is The Internet Of Things & How Will It Affect Our Future [MakeUseOf Explains] It seems like there are new buzzwords popping up and dying off with each day that passes us by, and "the Internet of Things" just happens to be one of the more recent ideas that... Read More , an idea that describes a network of interconnected devices where all the devices are constantly sending information back and forth without any human involvement.

Comparisons have been made between Wi-Fi Aware and Apple’s iBeacon How Bluetooth 4.0 Is Shaping the Future of Mobile Connectivity Bluetooth is the forgotten star on the device specifications sheet. Read More , which was a different proximity-based network that used low energy Bluetooth instead of Wi-Fi The Differences Between Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi Direct You Need To Know If you take a peek into the future, it's hard not to envision an always-on society that features a multitude of connected devices that work in unison to make your life more convenient. Read More . iBeacon never really fulfilled the hype surrounding it, but Wi-Fi Aware seems like it might have more success.


The Pros and Cons of Wi-Fi Aware

Because Wi-Fi Aware is so new, it’s hard to say with certainty just how exactly it’s going play out, but we can take cues from other similar experiments — both successes and failures — to speculate on the pros and cons of Wi-Fi Aware.

The first thought that pops up, at least in my mind, is the growing popularity of smart home automation What Is A Smart Home? We recently launched a Smart Home category at MakeUseOf, but what is a smart home? Read More . Smart home products rely on device interconnectivity to accomplish a lot of what they do, and smart homes are quite convenient. How much better could they be with a standardized protocol like Wi-Fi Aware?

Another commonly-cited use case is when you’re at a shopping mall. Imagine walking along and being notified of nearby sales at your favorite stores. Or if it’s really crowded (such as when shopping during Black Friday), Wi-Fi Aware could help pinpoint the location of lost friends and family.

Speaking of crowds, let’s say you’re traveling through the bustling streets of New York City. Wouldn’t it be great if your phone alerted you to say that an old friend is sitting on a bench just a few meters behind you? With Wi-Fi Aware, the possibilities are limitless.


But it’s not perfect.

One huge concern is battery life. Despite the fact that the Wi-Fi Alliance’s President has already claimed that Wi-Fi Aware is power efficient — even more efficient than traditional Wi-Fi — it’s undeniable that any Wi-Fi Aware device will use more energy than a device without Wi-Fi Aware.

Again, it’s too early to know for sure, but unless the battery consumption of Wi-Fi Aware is next to negligible, it’s going to be problematic. Users are already scrambling for ways to improve laptop battery life 7 Ways To Improve Battery Life on Windows 8 Tablets & Laptops In Windows 8.1 battery-saving features moved! Otherwise they are similar to options seen in previous Windows versions. Learn more to make your tablet or laptop battery last as long as possible. Read More and prolong smartphone battery life 10 Proven and Tested Tips to Extend Battery Life on Android Suffering from poor battery life on Android? Follow these tips to get more juice out of your Android device's battery. Read More . This may end up being yet another battery drain.



Security is another big concern. Although the Internet of Things is great in theory, which makes Wi-Fi Aware great in theory by extension, we’ve already seen that it’s vulnerable to security exploits and attacks Why The Internet of Things Is The Biggest Security Nightmare One day, you arrive home from work to discover that your cloud-enabled home security system has been breached. How could this happen? With Internet of Things (IoT), you could find out the hard way. Read More . With so much interconnectivity, it’d be naïve to think that there won’t be any loopholes to exploit.

And then we have security’s little brother, privacy. Sure, Wi-Fi Aware can supposedly be toggled on and off by the user, but how long will it be before Wi-Fi Aware — like Wi-Fi — is so engrained in culture that you can’t turn it off? How much information will you end up giving away 7 Reasons Why The Internet of Things Should Scare You The potential benefits of the Internet of Things grow bright, while the dangers are cast into the quiet shadows. It's time to draw attention to these dangers with seven terrifying promises of the IoT. Read More ? And how will that information be used against you?

What’s the Bottom Line?

Look closely and you’ll see a trend over the past decade in modern technology: a trade-off between security and privacy for convenience and novelty. Wi-Fi Aware is just another data point in that pattern and fits in perfectly.

There’s no doubt that Wi-Fi Aware is going to result in some really cool applications and products, and you’ll probably be able to start experiencing these new developments sooner rather than later.

But if you care at all about security or privacy, do not be an early adopter 5 Reasons Why Being An Early Adopter Is A Bad Idea Are you the type of person who pre-orders the newest tech gadgets as soon as they’re available? Then you’re an early adopter. Is there a downside? Let's find out. Read More . Wait. Be patient for a few years. See if any big exploits hit the scene. Worst case scenario, Wi-Fi Aware ends up being a passing fad and you miss out on nothing important. Best case, you save yourself a lot of headache.

How do you feel about Wi-Fi Aware? Excited? Jaded? Apathetic? Will it be a fad or a revolution? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Image Credits: Wi-Fi Devices by Oleksiy Mark via Shutterstock, Mobile Security by wk1003mike via Shutterstock

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  1. Anonymous
    August 29, 2015 at 7:57 am

    Good article, but I would've liked to see comparisons to Bluetooth beacons. And also, people droning on about privacy, when this technology really manifests itself in society, and competition starts pouring in, we'll have companies attempting to gain competitive advantage through security and privacy offers. And also, there is always the development of security software and communication protocols. I'm not saying security and privacy isn't a MAJOR problem, but continuously complaining about the inevitable is worthless. And the benefits of this type of technology, of IoT, can be huge for a lot of people. And the development of the communication technology also means a lot for a lot of people, like say space exploration, hospital management systems, prisons, etc.

  2. Anonymous
    August 27, 2015 at 7:00 am

    Big brother is watching even more closely. If I can't shut it of I don't even want to see it

    Let's start a forum Wi-Fi UN-aware to block all this intrution in our lives

  3. Anonymous
    August 25, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    A truly bad idea. Just what we need, another port to keep an eye on. If you think that INTERNET SECURITY is marginal at best, allowing AWARE to live will allow all of the invisible internet WOLVES (namely the hackers and their ilk) to wreak their havoc in new and disastrous ways on the rest of the internet SHEEP.

  4. Anonymous
    August 24, 2015 at 11:31 pm

    Pass...I don't see that much value...of course I don't see much value in being able to change my TV channel with my phone or the color of my light bulbs. It just isn't that interesting. Seems like we're being tethered to our phones which just isn't that necessary and were going to find out that all this "kewlness" is going to go out just like a fade. The real value of the smart phone is accessing data not people.

  5. Anonymous
    August 24, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    "Can you imagine what life would be like without Wi-Fi?"
    It would a whole lot more secure and private!

    "How do you feel about Wi-Fi Aware?"
    Unfortunately there is no question that WiFi-Aware WILL happen. Too many people are going ga-ga over the connectivity, convenience and kewlness of IoT. At the same time the same people are bleating about the loss of security and privacy. Sorry, folks. You can't have both: security/privacy and convenience/kewlness, only either/or. With IoT, you might as well publish your most personal data and your innermost secrets on Facebook. On second thought, that is exactly what you will be doing. The next step in the IoT revolution will be the implanting of each and every human with an RFID chip. Anybody up for joining the Borg Collective?

    IoT will make Big Brother and his cronies seem like a bunch of inept amateurs.