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.

 

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