Understanding Multipeer Connectivity Framework in iOS 7 – Part 1

The Multipeer Connectivity Framework is one of the many new frameworks iOS 7 introduces, and it broadens the range of the applications that can be built for the new operating system. Its aim is to enable developers to create applications that will allow devices being in close distance to get connected, simply using Wi-Fi networks or Bluetooth. Great tools are offered for establishing communication between nearby devices, and for exchanging data and other resources without much effort to be required.

Continuing this introduction, it’s necessary to discuss a few more details about the Multipeer Connectivity framework and become more familiarized with it before we see any example of it. First of all, it’s really important to underline that this framework works on nearby devices only, meaning devices that use the same network infrastructure (such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth), so don’t expect it to work for devices existing in long distance. With Multipeer Connectivity, one device is able to get connected to many other devices and communicate at the same time with all of them. A single device is called a peer. What actually takes place when a connection between two peers is established, is that a Multipeer Connectivity Session gets created, and this session is responsible for managing the whole communication and data exchanging between peers. For multiple devices, multiple sessions can be set up.

Prior to any session establishment, devices (peers) need to discover one each other. Discovery is the first phase that takes place when Multipeer Connectivity is used in applications. How discovery is being made? Let’s suppose we have only two devices we want to get connected. One device at least must work as a browser, in order to search for other existing devices, and the second device must be discoverable by telling that it’s out there and wants to connect to someone, or in other words the second device must advertise itself. Normally, both devices should advertise themselves, but at least one should browse for other peers in order to establish a connection.

Regarding the browsing functionality especially, Apple provides two ways to use it. The first and easy one, is a browsing UI built-in directly into the framework, which when is called a modal view is displayed listing all available and connected devices to the one that works as a browser. The second way offers greater flexibility to developers, as it’s a totally programmatic way, so one can implement customized browsing according to the needs of the application. Later on we will use the first way only, as this is an introductory tutorial about this framework.

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