May 17, 2007
No WiFi? WiPeer software says ‘no problem’
Whenever Technion computer science professor Roi Friedman visited conferences and lectures with his students, he found himself growing increasingly frustrated.
In an age of supposedly instant communications, he felt impatient that in locations without access to the Internet or a cellular network, there was no way to communicate or share files with fellow researchers, even though they all carried laptops and were often in the same hall or building.
The answer, he realized, was to develop a new solution.
One and a half years later, a team of doctoral students under Friedman's guidance has developed WiPeer. The new software enables mobile and desktop computers to communicate directly with one another in a local area without any mediating factor, such as an Internet server. The software, which is available free on the Net, enables users to send messages, pictures, files, movies and games to one another wirelessly within a 100- to 300-meter radius.
Direct communication via computers has been technically possible for years. Any laptop or desktop computer with wireless connection capabilities should be able to communicate directly with another. The only problem is that this form of wireless ad-hoc communication is highly complex and requires a long configuration process. Even professionals in the field have shied away from tackling this problem.
"We always knew the possibility existed but it was just too complicated," Friedman said. "When we wanted to share files, pictures or games it was much easier to just use a USB or disk on key."
Work on WiPeer began in January 2006. It was undertaken as a doctoral dissertation by three of Friedman's graduate students, Vadim Drabkin, Gabi Kliyot and Alon Kama. Their goal was to devise a solution that would not only solve their own communication problems, but which could also be put to use by the general public. As a result, the team focused on building software that looks attractive and professional.
"Typically when you build software in academia it is very rough and not always easy to use," Friedman said. "Right from the start we made sure that WiPeer would have an attractive GUI [graphic user interface], could be easily installed and was simple and appealing to use."
The user-friendly application platform enables simple communication between computers in close proximity -- 100 yards inside a building and up to 300 yards in the open air. Users can transfer dozens of pictures from one computer to another in less than a minute, and even a 700 megabyte file can be transferred in up to 15 minutes. It is also possible to carry on chats without disturbing anyone in the vicinity or to play collaborative games like chess.