How the IoT is Affecting Wi-Fi

October 18, 2018 at 8:00 AM

 

In today’s society, Wi-Fi has become something that people now expect to be readily available and depend on to carry out everyday tasks. With the rollout of the Internet of Things (IoT), people will soon become accustomed to having all of their things connected as well. But with all of those connected devices, can Wi-Fi handle an even greater influx of user demand for high-speed connectivity? Here, we’ll take a look at how the IoT is affecting Wi-Fi.

 

When it comes to connectivity requirements, each IoT application can have a different set of range, data throughput and energy efficiency needs. Some IoT devices only need small, intermittent data transfers, such as utility meters. While some need a constant stream of data, such as live surveillance cameras. Also, range can differentiate from very short for wearables, to spanning miles for weather and agricultural sensor applications. But there are two things that are constants for all IoT applications: the need for remote power and constant connectivity.

 

To fulfill this need, Wi-Fi is the obvious choice because Wi-Fi coverage is so widespread, but standard Wi-Fi is not always the best choice for IoT applications. Thus, there are several standards that have emerged from the need for IoT connectivity. These include LoRaWAN, multiple short range communications standards and new Wi-Fi standards such as HaLow (802.11ah) and HEW (802.11ax).

 

The 802.11ah standard was introduced to address the range and power needs of the IoT. It utilizes the 900 MHz frequency band to provide extended range, covering a one kilometer radius, lower power requirements, wake/sleep periods and station grouping options.

 

The 802.11ax standard also includes the wake/sleep and station grouping features, and has a MU-MIMO feature that allows up to 18 users to simultaneously send data within a 40 MHz channel when paired with the smaller subcarrier spacing. Internet service providers and technology startups have also begun developing an application layer that includes mesh networks that use sets of routers to work together and extend wireless coverage, and provisioning tactics that define how wireless devices connect to networks.

 

There is some fear that the IoT could essentially break Wi-Fi, but there seems to be plenty of development activity focused around finding solutions to Wi-Fi congestion before it becomes a problem. With all of the IoT devices expected to be connecting in the near future, there will likely be a significant shift in Wi-Fi practices and standards, but as with everything in the world of technology, being able to pivot and reconfigure is the name of the game.

 

LoRaWAN and the IoT

April 5, 2018 at 8:00 AM

 

As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow, new technology to foster its growth also emerges. One example is LoRaWAN.

 

LoRaWAN was developed by the LoRa Alliance as a way to standardize the global deployment of low-power, wide-area networks (LPWAN) to enable the IoT. LoRaWAN is a LPWAN specification designed for wireless, battery operated devices in a regional, national or global network. The focus of LoRaWAN is fulfilling key requirements of the IoT with secure, bi-directional communication, mobility and localization services.

 

LoRaWAN is a media access control (MAC) payer protocol made for large-scale public networks with a single operator. This specification allows for interoperability between smart Things without complicated local installations, which offers more freedom for users, developers and businesses, and enables easier implementation of the IoT. The low power wide-area networks used in the LoRaWAN specification are able to provide low data rate, low cost, long battery life and long range – all of which is ideal for IoT devices. Plus, the simple star network architecture means there are no repeaters and no mesh routing complexity.

 

How does it work? LoRaWAN is a star network and the way it operates is somewhat simple. The gateway communicates messages between the end-devices, and vice versa, through single-hop wireless communication. There is also a network server in the background that is connected to the gateway via a standard IP connection. With this standard, end-point communication is usually bi-directional, though LoRaWAN also supports mass distribution messages to decrease on air communication time. Communication between gateways and end-devices is distributed between different data rates and frequency channels, which helps to avoid interference. Data rates with LoRaWAN range from 0.3 kbps to 50 kbps. The LoRaWAN server manages the data rate and RF output for each device with an adaptive data rate scheme, this maximizes battery life of the end-devices and network capacity. LoRaWAN also provides extra security with several layers of encryption, which is necessary for nation-wide networks designed for IoT use. These layers of protection consist of a unique network key (EUI64) for a secure network, a unique application key (EUI64) for end-to-end security on an application level and a device specific key (EUI128).

 

There are three different classes of LoRaWAN end-point devices:

 

  • ·       Class A - Bi-directional end-devices: This class of end-devices are capable of bi-directional communications, this means the after the uplink transmission of each device there are two short downlink receive windows. These end-devices follow an ALOHA-type protocol where the transmission scheduled is mostly based on the communication needs of the end-device, with some times chosen randomly. The Class A operations system provides the lowest power option for applications that only need downlink communication from the server after an uplink transmission has been sent by the end-device.

 

  • ·       Class B – Bi-directional end-devices with scheduled receive slots: Class B devices unlock additional receive windows at scheduled times, in addition to random receive windows like Class A. To open the receive window at a scheduled time, the end-device receives a time synchronized beacon from the gateway which alerts the server of when the end-device is listening.

 

  • ·       Class C – Bi-directional end-devices with maximal receive slots: Class C end-devices have receive windows that are almost always open, only closing when a transmission is in progress.

 

As IoT use increases, LoRaWAN provides a low data rate, low cost option making it easier to connect Things locally or globally, all while providing long battery life and long range.

 

© L-com, Inc. All Rights Reserved. L-com, Inc., 50 High Street, West Mill, Third Floor, Suite 30, North Andover, MA 01845