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Wi-Fi HaLow: The Solution for Smart Homes
Illustration: © IoT For All

Is your “smart” house behaving like a dumb house? There is hope. Wi-Fi HaLow provides a secure, reliable connection for all your connected devices. Consumers have embraced the concept of relying on convenient internet-connected devices to automate functions within their homes. Gone are the days of manually setting the thermostat or turning lights on mechanical timers. Now these functions can be controlled from anywhere via a smartphone app or even via AI in the cloud. Broadband service connections provide the home with ample bandwidth and low latency, but a good wireless connection between modems and devices has proven elusive.

Is Wi-Fi the Answer?

Wi-Fi was the last connection promised to bring everything together. Manufacturers rushed to fill the demand for connected appliances, security systems, door locks, switches, lights, garage door openers, and virtual assistant speakers. By providing the homeowner with new convenience and functionality, while gathering analytics and expanding the scope of diagnostic capabilities, manufacturers have found ways to offset the additional costs of manufacturing and maintaining connected devices. Consumers assumed that device manufacturers used safe and secure architectures to deploy and maintain their services.

However, several common problems plagued the diverse use cases of these connected products. High power consumption of traditional Wi-Fi connections, dead spots, and poor coverage due to different house building techniques and building materials. In addition, there is crowded 2.4GHz and 5GHz RF spectrum, complex deployment/setup procedures, and hackers exploiting security holes. Consumer expectations for simple, reliable and secure connections have driven manufacturers to install a mix of expensive proprietary wireless technologies.

Consumers have been forced to use proprietary wireless devices that run on Zigbee, Z-wave, Bluetooth and other non-standard RF techniques, and bridge it to the Wi-Fi router. They have come to believe that battery or AC power supplies need frequent replacement. They were forced to use network extenders for devices located far from the router. In the absence of better long-distance solutions, power-hungry cellular phone technology has been reduced to recurring subscription fees and unpredictable data usage charges. Hackers have exploited holes in the security of thinly-protected authentication protocols on devices that lack the ability to perform OTA updates to respond to new threats.

Advantages of HaLow Wi-Fi

IEEE 802.11ah Wi-Fi HaLow™ is the technology that can solve problems faced by existing wireless solutions – using a scalable industry standard. It is purpose-built for the specific needs of IoT devices. Wi-Fi Halow has longer distances, lower power dissipation, better penetration through building materials, sufficient bandwidth, improved network capacity, ease of deployment and installation, lifetime security, over-the-air (OTA) updates and low material cost. Let’s look at each of these requirements separately:

#1: Distance

Sub-1GHz Wi-Fi HaLow frequencies using narrow 1MHz channels travel ten times further than legacy Wi-Fi, without the need for network extenders. Battery powered cameras can be placed in more convenient locations when needed outside the walls of a house or garage. Lighting systems can be controlled from a single AP, regardless of whether the fixture is indoors or outdoors in the garden. Providing customers with a solution that reaches 100m further – without additional extenders or cellular data plans – is a huge competitive advantage.

#2: Power

HaLow Wi-Fi requires less power than conventional Wi-Fi to reach longer distances, while providing adequate bidirectional data transfers. IEEE 802.11ah specifies various new sleep modes that allow devices to remain in very low power states for long periods of time — conserving battery energy.

#3: Battery Consumption

Wi-Fi HaLow can be powered by a simple coin cell battery with an average power consumption below 10uW. With such low power, HaLow can be used in devices that have historically relied on Zigbee, Bluetooth, or proprietary technologies.

#4: Penetration

Greater access to HaLow Wi-Fi through buildings will reduce customer service calls and product returns that affect conventional Wi-Fi based products. The lower frequencies used by Wi-Fi HaLow penetrate through different building materials better than 2.4GHz and 5GHz, while consuming less power. Wi-Fi HaLow uses OFDM modulation to correct for reflections and multipath environments. Device manufacturers can be sure of a strong HaLow connection to the AP, whether their products are placed indoors or outdoors, or in the basement or attic of a home. This eliminates the added complexity and cost of providing proprietary devices or bridge devices to compensate for the different home architectures of consumers around the globe.

#5: bandwidth

Like traditional Wi-Fi, HaLow Wi-Fi can automatically scale bandwidth depending on signal integrity and distance from the AP. These predefined levels of Modulation and Coding Scheme (MCS) support bandwidth from 150Kbps to 40Mbps for single-stream, single-antenna (1 x 1) products using different channel widths between 1, 2, 4 and 8MHz, with capacity up to 80Mbps. using an optional 16MHz wide channel. Automatic selection of the most appropriate MCS rate ensures fast data transfer.

This is important because the faster the data transfer, the less battery energy is used, and the less time the device needs on the radio waves – making them free for devices to use another.

#6: Security

IEEE 802.11ah includes the latest Wi-Fi requirements for authentication (WPA2/WPA3) and AES traffic encryption over the air.

#7: Ability

Up to 8,191 devices can be addressed via a single Wi-Fi HaLow AP. There should be enough capacity to cover every light bulb, door lock, window shade, thermostat, and smart home device imaginable for the distant future.

The Trusted & Connected Choice

Typical home Wi-Fi routers only support thousands of devices. If deployed into the home by a broadband service provider, the Wi-Fi HaLow AP can be a platform for additional revenue through subscriptions to security and utility management devices and services for one or more homes in the neighborhood. HaLow is a star network topology and does not suffer from the capacity problems of mesh networks. With a mesh network, the radio spectrum becomes congested with duplicates of the same messages being sent over and over again.

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