WiFi HaLow: IoT's Low-Power Savior? - InformationWeek

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Data Management // IoT
03:39 PM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman

WiFi HaLow: IoT's Low-Power Savior?

The new standard announced by the WiFi Alliance will reduce power requirements and extend WiFi's range.

8 Ways IoT Will Change IT Forever
8 Ways IoT Will Change IT Forever
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The WiFi Alliance Monday announced WiFi HaLow, which it says will help cement WiFi's position as the go-to wireless standard for a bevy of verticals. WiFi HaLow is the branding behind IEEE 802.11ah, which operates in the 900 MHz band. Dropping below 1 GHz will add a number of benefits to the standard and will help move the Internet of Things and other connected services toward the connected future.

The vast majority of the 6.8 billion WiFi-enabled devices in the market use either 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, or both to connect to one another. These frequencies are somewhat high in the spectrum range, but work for the majority of today's uses. WiFi HaLow will add a third band -- 900 MHz -- to the mix.

(Image: PashaIgnatov/iStockphoto)

(Image: PashaIgnatov/iStockphoto)

This lower spectrum band offers a number of significant performance improvements. To start, it doubles the range of today's WiFi. Not only do WiFi signals travel farther, but they propagate better through and within buildings. The 900 MHz band requires less power to transmit, which makes it ideal for sensors, wearables, and other gear with limited battery capacity.

The WiFi Alliance notes that WiFi HaLow also offers multi-vendor interoperability, government-grade security, and easy management via IT. Last, it supports IP-based connectivity for cloud support and can connect thousands of remote devices to a single access point.

WiFi HaLow will thus be a boon to the Internet of Things, the smart home, smart cities, and verticals such as retail, manufacturing, healthcare, and the connected car.

"WiFi 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," Edgar Figueroa, president and CEO of the Wi-Fi Alliance, said in the announcement.

[Read about the IoT innovations on tap at CES 2016.]

The Alliance claims HaLow complements existing WiFi tech, especially as far as the IoT is concerned. The organization says it is actively investigating how best to use WiFi to connect all types of gadgets. It is "developing a new secure and simple way to connect and configure devices without a display or input mechanisms." This is vital for devices that don't have screens for managing their connections. The Alliance didn't share specifics about this forthcoming authentication tech.

While connected cars, the smart home, and IoT seem like a natural fit for WiFi HaLow, what's not clear is the role it might play with larger connected devices, such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Adding low-power, long-range WiFi to mobile devices will no doubt increase their utility.

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Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio
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User Rank: Apprentice
1/5/2016 | 12:27:00 PM
Hopefully Wi-Fi Alliance Does Better With HaLow Than The Rest of Client Market
Good article, Eric. I'm a big fan of 900 MHz as a radio technology and do see potentially great things here for HaLow. The make or break will be in how the Alliance handles the client space that uses it. Right now, we have a legitimate train wreck across the Wi-Fi client space as far as security types supported, client capabilities, and too many vendors taking a 1990 approach to building client devices. Almost every "consumer" device makes it to the entrprise WLAN with only the ability to do only PSK and (maybe demand outdated legacy data rates), and printer makers still don't know how to build a business printer that cat work on business WLAN networks. The list of foibles goes on. You can't have high-performing, secure WLAN when clients are low-performing and the important security stuff got left out! Ideally, the HaLow part of the equation won't be as fragmented as the 2.4 and 5 GHz client spaces.


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