In iOS 7, Apple introduced nearby networking features called Multipeer Connectivity to allow iOS devices in proximity to talk to one another over WiFi or Bluetooth even without a traditional Internet connection. Developers have used the tech for everything from exchanging files and other data between devices, to remote control functionality, and multi-device experiences like the iTranslate Voice app that sends real-time speech translated from one device to the other. It’s also the tech behind the local anonymous messaging service FireChat that got some attention earlier this year. Now, Apple is opening up the Multipeer Connectivity APIs to OS X starting with Yosemite and in the process allowing cross-platform nearby networking between Macs and iOS devices.
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With Multipeer Connectivity coming to the Mac, iOS developers relying on the feature for iOS apps could also build companion experiences for Mac, while for others it could provide a quick and easy way to implement sharing between Macs and iOS devices that are nearby. Apps like FireChat require users to be within 30 feet of each other to send messages, but also employs a mesh networking approach that can relay messages from one device to another and make the range of the network, in theory, limitless. The tech could also be used for an experience like Apple’s AirDrop feature, which it just so happens to be bringing to Mac with Yosemite.
During a developer session at WWDC, Apple showed an example of a Mac app that pulls in photos taken from an iOS app using Multipeer Connectivity. The benefit of Multipeer Connectivity is that it doesn’t require nearby devices to connect to same access point or an access point at all.
Apple is using the same API as on iOS for Multipeer networking on the Mac, but it’s replacing Bluetooth with Ethernet support in addition to offering infrastructure WiFi (like a hotspot), and peer to peer WiFi (like WiFi Direct).
The feature is supported by all iOS devices with Lightning connectors (non-Lightning devices have to use Bluetooth) and all Macs from 2012 or later.