Wi-Fi HaLow and the Evolution of the Smart Home
- By Michael De Nil
- May 05, 2023
From those early, high-pitched days of dial up, to the impending arrival of Wi-Fi 7, connectivity is changing… particularly in the Wi-Fi department.
Since its debut in 1997, the IEEE 802.11 Wi-Fi standard has steadily improved to deliver higher bandwidth, maximum throughput and more frequency bands. As a result, Wi-Fi is one of many wireless protocols used extensively across the globe, embraced by consumers and enterprises alike. It has become a key standard for driving innovation, business, education and healthcare and is the foundation for countless IoT applications including smart homes, wearables, smart factories, building automation, smart city infrastructure and more.
With such wide adoption comes a new and unique set of challenges including demand for ultra-low power, long-reach, and secure connections for IoT applications. The Wi-Fi Alliance’s introduction of the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED HaLow product certification program in 2021, was a major inflection point for IoT ecosystems, providing a new protocol alternative for smart home devices.
Wi-Fi HaLow a Game Changer for the Smart Home
Wi-Fi HaLow is a game changer for IoT applications that require a combination of long reach, low power, high data rates, high network capacity, and advanced security. This next-generation Wi-Fi protocol is poised to expand IoT connectivity options for consumers looking to manage their IoT devices and smart home networks. Wi-Fi HaLow will prove similarly beneficial to service providers. Here are several trends we can expect to see soon.
Wi-Fi 7 mesh access points with Wi-Fi HaLow. Wi-Fi provides reliable connectivity for devices near the router, even for bandwidth-hungry use cases like video conferencing, gaming, and virtual reality. One challenge, particularly for larger homes is full-property coverage.
Today’s best Wi-Fi 6E mesh access points struggle to reach locations outside of the home such as front gates, secondary dwellings, and outdoor video cameras. In these scenarios, Wi-Fi HaLow can be used as a longer-range backup link to extend the range of mesh access points.
Many mesh routers shipping today are reconfigured multiple times a day, and many use the same radio link for data communication and configuration. A key benefit of using a separate radio, such as Wi-Fi HaLow, is it can simplify configuration and improve network reliability.
Wireless access points can extend a network’s wireless coverage and increase the number of users that can connect to the internet. Adding Wi-Fi HaLow to access points will open possibilities to connect hundreds and even thousands of Wi-Fi HaLow-enabled IoT devices and create networks that can connect to anything across long distances.
As the market for low-power, long-reach IoT devices continues to expand, the demand for Wi-Fi HaLow-enabled access points will grow with it. As a result, we can expect leading service providers to begin adding Wi-Fi HaLow radios to their hub and access point products targeting home consumers.
Wi-Fi HaLow IP cameras. The smart home security market is booming. One study projects 120 million home cameras will be purchased in 2023 alone. Another survey found that a majority of home camera owners check footage via smartphone daily. There is a growing demand for wireless home security cameras, and consumers require these systems to be dependable and easy to install.
Most purchasers expect wireless cameras to work out-of-the-box, but the layout of every home is different, which can cause set-up challenges. Rather than relying on wired power supplies or larger batteries, consumers may opt for the convenience, efficiency, and affordability of a longer-range wireless network, such as Wi-Fi HaLow.
Wi-Fi HaLow’s sub-GHz frequency and narrower channels allow reliable wireless connections up to 10 times farther than conventional Wi-Fi, at the same transmitter power levels. Wi-Fi HaLow-based cameras continue to send video at longer distances while traditional Wi-Fi cameras often lose their connections. For these reasons, Wi-Fi HaLow cameras provide a good fit for home security systems that require a combination of longer reach and low-power wireless connectivity.
Long-range access with Wi-Fi networks. Imagine paying a major service provider for internet access and then discovering that your monthly subscription also gives you free Wi-Fi access to any other subscriber’s router in the neighborhood.
You could use Wi-Fi to stream music on your phone during a morning jog, or any number of other use cases. Amazon Sidewalk does just that with a shared network that helps connected devices work better at home and beyond your front door. Sidewalk can unlock device benefits, support other Sidewalk devices in your neighborhood, and find pets or lost items.
It creates a low-bandwidth network with Sidewalk Bridge devices to share a small part of your internet, which is pooled together with neighboring connections to provide these services to you and your community. When more neighbors take part, the Sidewalk network becomes stronger.
The problem with Sidewalk? Nationwide coverage is limited, as is the Wi-Fi range of individual routers. So, the connection would be spotty at best. Users would practically have to stand outside someone’s front door with a laptop to do anything useful. But with Wi-Fi HaLow added to the network, a service provider could potentially offer customers longer-range Wi-Fi coverage as much as a kilometer away from a home router – across whole neighborhoods or cities. That’s an attractive capability for both service providers and their end customers.
The Future of Connectivity
Todays and tomorrow’s vast connectivity options and smart home possibilities are endless. We’ll see smart, connected devices we trust physically interacting with our digital world, enriching our lives, and freeing everyone to focus on what matters most. This vision marks the beginning of a new era of Wi-Fi connectivity for the IoT that promises to be more transformative than any that came before it.