Smart devices and Wi-Fi: how do we support users’ expectations?

Smart devices and Wi-Fi have today become all-pervasive in our lives and environment. We read about them, we hear about them and we even see them all in action: our devices are ending up getting increasingly interconnected. Tiny or huge, watches, wristbands, beds, gardens, TVs and fridges already have or will soon have access to the Internet. They are all part of the global picture set by the IoT (Internet of Things), an ecosystem of smart devices expected to grow exponentially, as outlined in the graphic below.
In parallel, the number of Wi-Fi hotspots is expected to increase: by 2020, there should be seven times more of those hotspots than there were in 2015.
Public venues, xDSL routers and corporate networks already welcome these smart devices that are willing to hop online. Besides, there are other methods of connection, with Bluetooth being the best known among them; but technologies such as Zigbee, LoRa or Sigfox are coming down the line, depending on vendors and usage patterns.

Growth of smart devices and Wi-Fi

Growth of smart devices and Wi-Fi; the explosion of the internet of things.

Experts agree that the IoT is poised to experience a buoyant growth in the coming years, but is Wi-Fi geared up to support this surge and the specific requirements from such devices?

Here are a couple of examples where the relevance of Wi-Fi can be questioned:

  • The humidity sensor in your garden is most probably located far away from your residential Internet router. Wi-Fi has a limited coverage which is often blunted or hampered by physical barriers. Wi-Fi therefore needs to increase its coverage capacity.
  • As said earlier, smart devices are expected to grow exponentially. Across a smart city, for example, we can expect a higher density of such devices that must be supported. Today, the Wi-Fi enablement of stadiums requires a large volume of access points, and this number is even higher throughout a whole city.
  • As our societies are getting even more mobile, our devices must also meet specific requirement in user-friendliness, battery operating life, wireless connection… Today, anyone who has switched on the Wi-Fi feature on his smartphone will notice that the battery has drained away considerably faster.

Smart devices and Wi-Fi: the urge for improved standardization

The IEEE in charge of Wi-Fi standardization cannot brush under the carpet the booming growth in smart devices, thus offering solutions to better support the developments of IoT. A new Wi-Fi standard dedicated to smart devices has been released:  Wi-Fi HaLow (standardized as IEEE 802.11ah).

Network expert Guy Pujolle details the technical specifications of this standard that will help tackle the following challenges:

  • Coverage
  • Density
  • Power/battery management
  • Leverage of legacy infrastructures

Read the post from Guy Pujolle here.

With this new standard, and by using existing Wi-Fi infrastructure, the HaLow technology will support billions of smart devices emerging in the market that are willing to connect to the Internet. This next-generation Wi-Fi is one of the multiple standards that will emerge by 2020, along with IEEE 802.11af, aj, ax, ay and az.