Networking devices that don't have conventional user interfaces is one of the bigger barriers to realizing the Internet of Things. To make that process easier, the Wi-Fi Alliance has added support for NFC (near-field communication) technology to its WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) security standard. Instead of typing characters or pushing buttons, you'll soon be able to add an NFC device to your network by simply tapping it against your router.
NFC is becoming ubiquitous in cell phones and tablets, but the Wi-Fi Alliance expects NFC setup to be even more useful for adding simpler devices--everything from thermostats to household appliances--to networks.
"You'll see it in handsets now, but what it really enables is devices that don't have a user interface," said Kelly Davis-Felner, vice president of marketing for the Wi-Fi Alliance. Since you can't drag your refrigerator to your router, Davis-Felner explained that you'll tap the NFC-capable smartphone you've already added to your network against the fridge.
NFC is now the third secure setup option in WPS's arsenal, following one that uses PIN numbers and another that involves pushing hardware buttons. The first chipsets to support the new WPS update are from Broadcom, Marvell, Mediatek, and Qualcomm.
The Google Nexus 10 supports the technology today, and other NFC-enabled Wi-Fi devices can add the functionality with just a firmware update. Device manufacturers will need to submit their products to the Wi-Fi Alliance if they want them to be certified, however, and that process can be time consuming and expensive.