SoftAP is the abbreviation for “software-enabled access point”. A softAP is a virtual router made by software which enables the user to configure the headless device by the user. SoftAP is a common way to set up Wi-Fi devices without the need to enter data/credentials directly, such as a security camera, smart socket and other smart home appliance or any other IoT devices.
This process can work well, but there are three main problems. First, the process often requires the user to manually connect to the SoftAP network, which can be difficult for ordinary users. Second, if the user enters the passkey incorrectly, or if the phone disconnects from the SoftAP network for some reason, it is difficult for the application and the device to recover the connection easily, so sometimes the user has to do a factory reset and start over. And third, each phone varies the way it handles SoftAP based on its features (hardware and operating system version), so the user experience varies drastically, especially because of the variety that exists in hardware and software on Android.
Because of these issues, many companies that manufacture Wi-Fi-connected products are now adding BLE and other technologies to facilitate a better user experience.
The process typically involves these steps:
- The headless device initiates a SoftAP Wi-Fi point.
- The user downloads a specific product-app to a smartphone, then the app using a system like Android or iOS connects to the SoftAP point, or guides the user to connect the phone manually.
- The application asks the user for the Wi-Fi network name (SSID) and passkey.
- The application sends the SSID and passkey to the headless device over the SoftAP connection.
- The headless device leaves the SoftAP network and joins the user’s private Wi-Fi network.
Wi-Fi Direct is another way for the Wi-Fi devices to talk to each without the need to get them both in the same AP. At this moment, not all the devices support Wi-Fi Direct, so we use SoftAP in lieu.