Connectivity is critical to virtually every aspect of our lives. From wearable devices to security systems and factory automation equipment, the ability to connect, monitor and control the enormous variety of connected devices comprising today’s enterprises is a necessity.
The total number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices is projected to surpass 43 billion by 2023. Enterprises have begun to adapt to this growing imperative for connectivity. The number of businesses deploying IoT technologies has nearly doubled in less than a decade, but the pace of past evolution doesn’t compare to what we’ll see in the near future.
Wi-Fi (a set of 802.11 standards) has emerged as the most popular protocol for wireless local area networks (WLANs). Recent generations of Wi-Fi (Wi-Fi 4, 5 and 6) offer exceptional data rates over short ranges, making them well-suited for ultra-high resolution video streaming, virtual reality and other data-intensive applications. However, those protocols weren’t engineered to cover many of the applications enterprises now demand for their IoT. Recently, a new long-reach, low-power Wi-Fi protocol emerged to meet the unique demands of IoT connectivity: the Wi-Fi HaLow (IEEE 802.11ah) standard.
The Wi-Fi Alliance’s introduction of the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED HaLow program on November 2, 2021, was an industry inflection point. Morse Micro, where I serve as CEO, was among several vendors that worked with the Wi-Fi Alliance (the global nonprofit organization that certifies Wi-Fi products) on this wireless protocol engineered specifically for the IoT.
HaLow: The Next Step In Wi-Fi For The IoT
I believe that Wi-Fi HaLow is a game changer for enterprise IoT applications that require a combination of long reach, low power, high data rates, high network capacity and advanced security. Application possibilities range from factory and building automation to smart agriculture and smart city infrastructure. Here are some key points about Wi-Fi HaLow for enterprise connectivity:
- Wi-Fi HaLow can reach more than 1 kilometer and support more than 8,000 devices with one access point, making it suitable for warehouses, factories, retail stores and large campus environments.
- Because Wi-Fi HaLow signals can penetrate physical barriers like walls, floors and other obstructions more effectively than higher frequency protocols, it can reduce the operating cost and complexity of deploying end nodes such as wireless sensors and detectors that otherwise require range extenders or additional access points (APs).
- An inherently secure wireless protocol, Wi-Fi HaLow supports the latest Wi-Fi requirements for authentication and encryption including WPA3 and AES for over-the-air (OTA) traffic.
- Wi-Fi HaLow is more energy-efficient than previous Wi-Fi options, enabling multiyear battery lifetimes for IoT devices and support for coin cell batteries.
- Wi-Fi HaLow is license-free and based on the open IEEE 802.11 standard. This helps simplify installation and reduces operating costs because there’s no requirement for proprietary gateways, controllers or hubs. Additionally, because of the Wi-Fi Alliance’s commitment to interoperability, there will always be multiple Wi-Fi HaLow vendors, resulting in lower costs than proprietary protocols.
How To Implement HaLow In Your Enterprise’s Tech Strategy
Many enterprises have relied on complex mesh networks to connect and control their huge inventories of IoT devices. With its large network capacity and long reach, Wi-Fi HaLow can replace the often difficult-to-deploy mesh networks. The standard can also simplify enterprise network deployment by reducing security network infrastructure and accelerating installation times.
Most companies conduct frequent information technology (IT) audits, so a simple first step in considering Wi-Fi HaLow would be to add IoT connectivity requirements to your next audit. Chances are, your organization’s IoT network needs are already extensive and will continue to grow in the years ahead.
As part of the IT audit, cross-reference your list of IoT requirements with Wi-Fi HaLow’s abilities. As a protocol engineered specifically for the IoT, Wi-Fi HaLow tends to fit enterprise connectivity needs like a custom-built solution.
As you build out and refine your IT technology roadmaps, develop a plan to integrate Wi-Fi HaLow technology into your network topology and discuss your HaLow certification plans with equipment vendors so that you can factor in HaLow-enabled devices and networks.
The duration and cost of deploying Wi-Fi HaLow technology in your enterprise network will depend on your current network architecture and other wireless protocols. Any updates or revisions will require planning and resource allocation but the implementation of Wi-Fi HaLow is often relatively easy. The creation of Wi-Fi HaLow was predicated, in part, on the goal of simplifying network management with easy-to-deploy wireless technology that eliminates the need to tear out existing wiring and run new cables to add devices or extend network coverage. Because Wi-Fi HaLow is compatible with existing Wi-Fi protocols, it won’t interfere with radio frequency (RF) performance for any enterprise already using these Wi-Fi protocols.
As your enterprise’s IoT device inventory continues to grow, the need for streamlined, easy-to-deploy and secure connectivity will only rise up your priority list. Wi-Fi HaLow was designed from the ground up in anticipation of this. Although tech innovation will continue to accelerate and more advanced standards will surely emerge, there currently isn’t another wireless protocol available that can match the power efficiency, extended range, network capacity, advanced security, Wi-Fi compatibility and native IP support offered by Wi-Fi HaLow.
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