Enhancing the Smart Home Experience with Wi-Fi HaLow Access Points
October 27, 2023
The new wireless technology that provides the necessary coverage indoors and outdoors for IoT devices is Wi-Fi CERTIFIED HaLow, which is based on the IEEE 802.11ah standard and operates in the license-exempt sub-GHz band.
One of the biggest obstacles in achieving seamless indoor and outdoor smart home coverage is the issue of dead spots caused by walls and other physical barriers. A smart home must have a reliable wireless network that can support far-flung applications such as sprinkler systems, perimeter cameras, video doorbells, and outdoor entertainment gadgets. However, certain areas in and around a house, such as garages, attics, or courtyards, often suffer from poor wireless connectivity due to physical obstructions.
As a sub-GHz protocol, Wi-Fi HaLow inherently overcomes these limitations. Wireless devices operating in the sub-GHz band can reach the boundaries of large homes and yards and pass through physical barriers that block standard Wi-Fi signals. Because sub-GHz signals can penetrate walls, floors, and other obstructions more effectively than higher frequency signals, Wi-Fi HaLow can reduce the cost and complexity of deploying IoT devices in the home that otherwise might require range extenders, mesh networks, or additional access points.
One of the most significant advantages of Wi-Fi HaLow is its extended range, which enables devices deployed in garages, front or backyards, or even on the roof to be within easy reach of the access point and smart home ecosystems. With IoT devices being deployed at greater distances inside and outside the home, they often end up in locations that are beyond the reach of higher-frequency signals. For example, smart outdoor devices such as cameras, weather sensors, and sprinkler systems can be out of reach for a conventional Wi-Fi access point. Wi-Fi HaLow signals can extend more than 1 kilometer, well beyond the reach of traditional Wi-Fi and the boundaries of large homes and yards, making it an ideal protocol for access points aimed at smart home environments. In addition, Wi-Fi HaLow enables simultaneous access of up to 8,191 devices to the same Wi-Fi access point, reducing the complexity of larger residential IoT deployments.
Meeting the Challenge of Wireless Interference
One of the most vexing challenges facing smart home networks is wireless interference. As the number of wireless devices and different wireless standards in the home continues to increase, there is a greater likelihood of experiencing wireless interference issues, especially in the crowded 2.4 GHz frequency band used by legacy Wi-Fi and other protocols such as Bluetooth, Thread and Zigbee. For example, when end-users experience connectivity issues with a newly installed IoT device, they may become frustrated and return the device to the manufacturer or retail outlet, even though the interference is caused by other devices on the network. Meanwhile, the interference issues affecting the home network remain unresolved, and the IoT device maker’s brand reputation may take an unwarranted hit.
Wi-Fi HaLow is a promising solution to the challenge of wireless interference for IoT devices. In North America multiple Wi-Fi HaLow APs can be configured to have up to 24 non-overlapping 1 MHz channels for low throughput devices, or three non-overlapping 8 MHz channels for higher throughput devices such as security cameras, or some combination of non-overlapping 1, 2, 4 and 8 MHz channels for different purposes. This makes Wi-Fi HaLow an ideal connectivity technology for smart home devices and an ideal complement to current generations of Wi-Fi to alleviate overcrowding in the 2.4 GHz band.
The recent release of the Wi-Fi HaLow certification by the Wi-Fi Alliance provides confidence that Wi-Fi CERTIFIED HaLow access points and IoT products can be easily deployed in the home. Moving smart home IoT devices (such as light bulbs, fridges, locks, sensors or cameras) to the sub-GHz band will provide them with the necessary range and connectivity and also keep them from interfering with demanding high-bandwidth applications (such as televisions, laptops, and phones) in the 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz and 6 GHz bands. In addition, Wi-Fi HaLow offers the latest WPA3 security and operates in the same way as conventional Wi-Fi 5 and 6 but with longer range and lower power.
Wi-Fi HaLow Tackles IoT Limits
The integration of Wi-Fi HaLow technology into modern consumer access points presents a viable solution for addressing some of the challenges that prevent the use of these access points with IoT devices deployed across indoor and outdoor environments. These challenges include limited range, signal interference, and network congestion. Access point manufacturers now have the option of designing Wi-Fi HaLow capable access points thereby enabling reliable and seamless connectivity for a wide range of smart home and IoT applications without compromising security.