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Moto sees challenges in NFC, Wi-Fi, DLNA

November 07, 2011 // Rick Merritt

Moto sees challenges in NFC, Wi-Fi, DLNA

A handful of standards will drive new smartphone uses and interoperability, but some pose challenges. In addition, it could take four to six months before Android 4.0, aka Ice Cream Sandwich, becomes widely available in handsets, said a Motorola Mobility executive.

Bluetooth low-energy (BLE), near-field communications (NFC), Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi Display and the DLNA standards hold great potential—and some potential pitfalls--for developers, said Ruth Hennigar, vice president of software product management at Motorola Mobility in a keynote at the Android Developer Conference here.

For example, one of the most interesting but complicated applications for NFC is mobile payments. "The banks, carriers and merchants all want to be in control [of mobile payments] and customers are still nervous about using it," Hennigar said.

"Right now you can only have one payment model in your phone at one time because of the carriers, and merchants don’t want to deploy multiple scanning devices—so it will take a while to work out who gets the money and how," she said.

Separately, the Wi-Fi Alliance is expected to ratify by the end of the year the specification for Wi-Fi Display, a technique for streaming video from handsets to TVs. Many TV makers are expected to support the wireless link in 2012 sets but "TV manufacturers have a tendency to do their own thing, so there will be lots of interoperability challenges to make it all work," she said.

A related technology, Wi-Fi Direct, is just now being rolled out in handsets as a peer-to-peer method for sharing data and media, she said.

The interoperability specifications defined by the Digital Living Network Alliance could be baked into as many as a billion systems by 2014. But the DLNA specs still leave something to be desired, Hennigar said.

"It's fairly hard to set up and discover devices on DNLA," she said. "It doesn’t work consistently across devices, so if someone can crack the code on making DLNA more useable and discoverable, there should be an app for that," she quipped.

For its part, BLE will be supported on next-generation Motorola Razr phones debuting November 11. The technology will open the door to Bluetooth peripherals beyond today's headsets and keyboards, including medical and fitness devices and a wide range of other possible products.

In conversation after her keynote, Hennigar said it could take as long as six months before handsets broadly use Android 4.0 formally announced by Google and Samsung in October.

"Motorola doesn't even have the source code yet," she said. "I imagine it may have to go through a revision before it is ready for products and then there is still carrier testing," she added.

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