The Wi-Fi Alliance has announced a new variety of its communication protocol, designed for long range and low power. 802.11ah, a.k.a. Wi-Fi HaLow, takes aim at the myriad connected devices of the Internet of Things.
In recent years there’s been an explosion of new wireless protocols to match the incredible variety of IoT devices, and of the environments in which they need to operate. Some (Thread, ZigBee, Z-Wave) are designed for the smart home while others (LoRa, Filament, Sigfox) reach across miles, but they’re all aiming at similar performance goals: providing enough range and bandwidth to connect vast numbers of devices without draining too much energy.
Like many of those competing protocols, HaLow uses the 900 MHz radio band. It has double the range of traditional Wi-Fi and more easily penetrates obstacles like walls. And unlike Bluetooth, which has seen wide adoption in the IoT market for its low-energy transmissions, HaLow devices can connect directly to the Internet without needing to be paired to a smartphone or computer.
But probably the biggest thing HaLow has going for it is the reputation and saturation of Wi-Fi. Having an IoT protocol built into routers alongside the higher-bandwidth and more power-intensive Wi-Fi we already rely on for our computers, phones and tablets means there’s one less things consumers have to worry about when buying a “smart” product.
A certification program to approve Wi-Fi HaLow devices is planned for 2018.
Related: Wi-Fi Aware
Author: Ted Burnham