Nowadays, there are a lot of apps which function with the help of a Wi-Fi connection, but there are many places where a wireless connection to the Internet isn't available. A platform called Wi-Fi Aware offers new ground for developers as it enables apps on nearby devices to find each other via Wi-Fi, even when there isn't a hotspot available. This newly created peer-to-peer system could have many interesting uses like helping you play multiplayer games with others in your vicinity or collaborating on a document with the guys at your table when there's no Internet.
The way this all works is actually pretty interesting. The Wi-Fi radio embedded in your device will send a signal which will be picked up by any other similar device within normal Wi-Fi range. In case there are multiple devices in the area of the signal they will form a cluster with a shared 'heartbeat'. The heartbeat will ensure that the service doesn't constantly drain your battery by determining when the radio signal should sleep and when it is needed to communicate with the other devices. If you're worried about your privacy, don't be: in order to join this network will first need to opt-in, so you won't be any more at risk than you already are. Additionally, the communications sent via Wi-Fi Aware can be encrypted so others won't be able to intercept them.
Unfortunately, when it comes to how soon we will be able to enjoy this system, things are a bit tricky. Basically it all depends on how willing retail stores and content providers are to adopt this technology. Apple already has a somewhat similar functionality called Apple Bonjour (which is now also available on Windows-powered devices), but since this platform comes from the same guys who created the wireless LAN system, it should quickly become very popular.
For more details about the Wi-Fi Aware platform visit its webpage on Wi-Fi.org