A problem with many IoT projects is the need to connect the device to WiFi. It’s a ‘chicken and egg‘ situation in that you need to connect to the device in order to set the WiFi settings but you can’t connect because you aren’t WiFi connected. This is usually solved in one of two ways. The first relies on a WPS button on the WiFi router which sets it into a mode where it will accept a new device without the user having to enter or select anything. Security flaws in WPS and the possibility of anyone pressing the WPS button mean this isn’t a great solution for IoT applications. The second method involves the IoT device itself acting as a WiFi router in ‘station mode’ while the user on a phone, laptop or other device connects and uses a http web interface to set the WiFi settings and reboot. Upon reboot, it’s no longer in station mode and connects to the assigned access point. However, users need simpler mechanisms.
Android used to support WPS but this has been deprecated in favour Wi-Fi Easy Connect. The latest Android Q documentation explains that the Wi-Fi Direct connection information (a URI) needs to reach the device somehow such as through a QR Code scan NFC receipt or a Bluetooth scan. Hence, it’s possible for an unprovisioned device to be scanning for a particular beacon that provides a connection URI that’s used for provisioning the WiFi. This allows retailers’ Android apps or Android IoT devices to easily connect to location-specific WiFi.
The API mentions that Easy Connect does not require Location or Wi-Fi permissions which is a bit misleading. It will need the Location permission if you use a Bluetooth scan to provision.