Say hello to the HaLow Wi-Fi standard for IoT

The WiFi Alliance has introduced a new low power, long range Wi-Fi standard (802.11ah) operating in the 900 GHz band and aimed at supporting Internet of Things applications, as Dirk Gates, executive chairman and founder of Wi-Fi vendor Xirrus explains

Say hello to the HaLow Wi-Fi standard for IoT

There’s a new Wi-Fi standard in town and it’s designed to help the Internet of Things (IoT) fulfil all its promises. With industry momentum mounting around a low power Wi-Fi solution, the Wi-Fi Alliance has introduced Wi-Fi HaLow as the designation for products incorporating IEEE 802.11ah technology.

An existing Wi-Fi set-up operates on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands but HaLow delves into the unlicensed 900MHz band, which offers longer range and lower power connectivity.

HaLow will enable a variety of new power-efficient use cases in the Smart Home, connected car, and digital healthcare, as well as industrial, retail, agriculture, and Smart City environments. [1]

Where did Wi-Fi HaLow originate from?
Back in 1965, celebrated engineer Gordon E. Moore made his famous observation that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. That rate remained true from 1975 until around 2012, when Moore predicted the rate of progress would inevitably reach saturation.

As of 2015, Intel has confirmed the trend still fundamentally exists, with the rate now averaging between two and two-and-a-half years – which is still a reckonable amount of time, by any standards.

Today, technology continues to advance and grow at an ever-rapid pace, and new concepts are realised in ground-breaking time. The recent announcement of HaLow is a prime example – as a new, low power, long range Wi-Fi solution that extends Wi-Fi into the 900 MHz band, ‘enabling the low power connectivity necessary for applications including sensors and wearables’.

When will Wi-Fi HaLow be available?
The technology is still in its earliest stages of development, so it won’t be available to most consumers for the next couple of years. Even so, the fact this technology (along with several other new Wi-Fi standards) is even in development reinforces Wi-Fi’s ever-growing significance as a vital communication medium.

The adoption of HaLow will bring on a host of new questions and challenges for organisations deploying Wi-Fi. Not only this, but the new standard and technology will bring exciting opportunities to the forefront for the Wi-Fi industry. But how will HaLow be integrated into infrastructure solutions?

Which type of device will most quickly adopt the new technology? How easily will these devices adopt it? Will HaLow help Wi-Fi displace other technologies in this space, like Z-Wave, Zigbee, or even Bluetooth?

The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) event in Las Vegas is often used as a launch point for new devices, and this year’s show was no different. By next year’s January 2017 event, there could be some particularly exciting new products that have been designed specifically to take advantage of HaLow.

Nevertheless, if there are any lessons to be learned from this announcement, it’s that Wi-Fi’s applications and capacity continue to increase as each year passes.

[1] Wi-Fi Alliance, February 2016, http://www.wi-fi.org/discover-wi-fi/wi-fi-halow#sthash.8Ya0KV1F.dpuf

 

 

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