Sunday, January 10, 2016

Heads up: New-and-improved Wi-Fi is on the way

For years, Bluetooth has been the technology of choice for low-power, short-range (i.e. a few feet) wireless communications, while Wi-Fi has been the preferred wireless technology for connecting devices within your home or office.

Well, thanks to the Internet of Things, which will require lots and lots of wireless connections between small-ish appliances, outlets and wearables, a new better-than-Bluetooth standard is required.

The Wi-Fi Alliance, the global body which is responsible for determining connectivity standards that ensure everything can talk to everything else, has approved something it calls 802.11 HaLow (pronounced like "halo" - such cleverness! The technology, which is an extension to the upcoming 802.11ah standard, was announced at last week's CES in Las Vegas.

Unlike current Wi-Fi devices that operate in the 2.4Ghz and 5GHz bands, HaLow devices will use the 900MHz band. The benefit: much lower power consumption, double the range, and it works far better through walls and other obstacles.

Why not use existing Wi-Fi? Because the current standards (b, g, n, ac, et al) would burn the battery on always-on, sensor-rich, always-connected devices like intelligent door locks, smart bulbs and appliances. The group says HaLow "will enable a variety of new power-efficient use cases in the smart home, connected car ... as well as industrial, retail, agriculture and smart city environments."

It's a direct competitor to low-power versions of Bluetooth, so expect a bit of a VHS vs. Beta-like battle for inclusion on your next fitness tracker wristband or smart door lock.

Either way, expect new devices sporting the updated standard to hit the market in 2018. Which gives us three years to buy a new router and adjust to the realities of wireless sports bras, connected coffee mugs and intelligent toasters. I'm not sure I'm ready for my toaster to be intelligent, but perhaps that's an issue for another day.

1 comment:

Tabor said...

Interesting. As I age I keep thinking I am going to miss out on some greater stuff!!