Of the billions of devices that are expected to light up the Internet of Things (IoT) over the next couple of years, it's a safe bet that many, if not most, will connect wirelessly.
Using this week's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) conference in Las Vegas as a backdrop, the Wi-Fi Alliance announced today that gadgets conforming to the 802.11ah wireless connectivity standard will carry the new Wi-Fi HaLow moniker. "Wi-Fi HaLow is well suited to meet the unique needs of the Smart Home, Smart City, and industrial markets because of its ability to operate using very low power, penetrate through walls, and operate at significantly longer ranges than Wi-Fi today," said Edgar Figueroa, president and CEO of the Wi-Fi Alliance, in a statement today.
Wi-Fi HaLow works on the 900 MHz band, setting the stage of low-power Wi-Fi connected gadgets, including wearables and sensors. According to the Alliance, Wi-Fi HaLow provides nearly twice the range of today's Wi-Fi and can punch a signal more readily through walls and other barriers that can make wireless networking a challenge.
The group envisions the technology providing IoT connectivity to both smart homes and industrial plants. "Wi-Fi HaLow expands the unmatched versatility of Wi-Fi to enable applications from small, battery-operated wearable devices to large-scale industrial facility deployments – and everything in between," Figueroa added.
One early supporter is member company Qualcomm, which is researching how to implement 802.11ah.
The wireless chipmaker views Wi-Fi HaLow as a whole-house connectivity solution. "11ah extends the range of Wi-Fi beyond the limited range of 2.4 and 5 GHz by leveraging the improved propagation and penetration of 900MHz radio waves through walls and obstructions," Qualcomm stated on its website. "With 11ah, Wi-Fi coverage improves in previously hard to reach places such as garages, back yards, attics, buildings, factories, malls, etc."
Wi-Fi HaLow will help IoT device vendors cut the cord, enabling battery-powered sensors to communicate their status and other pertinent information without running out of juice. "A 150 Kbps minimum data rate results in short on-time for sensors with short bursty data packets thus lowering their power consumption," Qualcomm explained. "Overall power is also reduced by using lower power MAC protocols such as smaller frame formats, sensor traffic priority, and beaconless paging mode."
The Wi-Fi Alliance isn't stopping at 802.11ah. In 2019, the 802.11ax standard may further enable IoT networking with speeds of 10 Gbps and a channel-slicing technique that can extend the range of compliant devices.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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