WiFi-equipped gadgets don't really say anything to each other before they connect, which limits what they can do -- you can't use them as Bluetooth-like smart beacons, or quickly find who's sharing photos. All that's going to change soon, though, thanks to the newly unveiled WiFi Aware spec. The technology has devices swapping tiny messages about their services when they detect each other, making it easy to send alerts and connect only to those devices you care about. You could quickly find nearby rivals for a multiplayer game, for example, or get a notification about a sale when you wander by a preferred store. And no, battery life shouldn't take a hit. Although WiFi Aware can run in the background, its use of a common "heartbeat" for the sync process could actually make it more efficient than conventional WiFi.
It'll be a while before you're using WiFi Aware gadgets and apps. Although a few wireless chipsets are good to go, you'll still need to wait for software implementations to make use of it. Even so, it should already be a big deal. Social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn should start using it by the end of the year, so you'll soon have an easier time connecting with friends when they're in the neighborhood. Also, Aware could be crucial for an internet of things where you want devices to find each other with little effort -- your house lights could offer to turn themselves on the moment you come home, for instance. And since you have a much longer range than Bluetooth, you won't always have to get cozy for the magic to happen.
[Image credit: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer]