You've probably heard of WiFi Direct, which lets devices connect to each other via WiFi when and where they need to, without the need for a wireless access point like a router. Now Qualcomm is rooting for something similar yet something new. LTE Direct is basically the same except that, as the name would imply, it leverages an LTE network instead. And it's ultimate purpose: to make sure your mobile devices receive location-relevant promotions and information without draining your battery.
The scenario is quite simple. You walk into a certain zone and your phone will suddenly know stores with irresistible promos, nearby places with interesting events, and locations that have the things you were just looking for. If that all sounds familiar, it's because that technology already exists today known as beacon and popularized by Apple's iBeacon implementation. The difference is that today's beacon's make use of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) but, according to Qualcomm, LTE Direct can do even better, especially when it comes to saving energy.
The technical reason is that apps using LTE Direct piggyback on the LTE network to get their message across. Devices in the area don't need to have their Bluetooth open or continually scan for data just to receive information in a timely manner. Plus, most of the legwork of timing, resource allocation, and user authentication come as a byproduct of the LTE network, so there is very little resource usage on the part of the devices. As for security, Qualcomm says that LTE Direct only uses the proximity of a device and never its identity or location, unlike other similar proximal discovery technologies like beacons.
Qualcomm likes to call it a digital 6th sense because it gives the illusion of your mobile device having almost psychic powers in knowing when and where certain things will happen. But in reality, this has got to be the most powerful platform that advertisers will be able to get their hands on. But like any piece of technology, it could be put to use both for ill and for good and can be utilized for things like automatic check-in systems, loyalty rewards notifications, social matchmaking, and anything else that can be tied to a location.
If that has gotten you either worried or excited, or both, you can breath a little more easily. LTE Direct isn't coming any time soon. Qualcomm is still conducting operator trials and app development tests, so it can be safe to say that we won't be seeing it until some time next year. Furthermore, LTE Direct utilizes a new part of the LTE standard being developed by the 3GPP, specifically release 12, and that won't be finalized until later this year.