New Wi-Fi Standards and Products Key to IoT Growth

The Internet of Things (IoT) is enabling an economic transformation that may eventually rival the Industrial Revolution. PricewaterhouseCoopers analysts say the IoT will soon become a multi-trillion-dollar industry, and Gartner researchers predict more than half of new businesses will run on the IoT within two years.

These projections depend entirely on having a connectivity backbone with sufficient range, throughput, energy efficiency and security to effectively move all that device data. Wi-Fi is generally considered the best option, but the popular wireless communication standard does have some limitations.

Various professional organizations and vendors are actively addressing Wi-Fi’s constraints. New wireless specifications from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a new security protocol from the Wi-Fi Alliance and IoT-enabled hardware and software all help boost Wi-Fi’s capacity for transferring IoT data.

The IEEE’s original 802.11 Wi-Fi protocol was designed to deliver short-range connectivity for laptops and other mobile devices. It is well-established as an in-building wireless networking solution, but range and power limitations can hamper some IoT use cases.

The IEEE’s new 802.11ah and 802.11ax specifications address these issues. IEEE 802.11ah, also known as HaLow, reduces power consumption by more than 90 percent and nearly doubles the range compared to legacy Wi-Fi standards. It also provides a more robust connection in challenging environments where signals must penetrate walls or other barriers. Dense device deployments will also benefit from HaLow’s ability to connect thousands of devices to a single access point.

The 802.11ax standard, also known as High-Efficiency Wireless (HEW), has a number of IoT-friendly features. It allows IoT devices that only transmit intermittently to go into sleep mode for extended periods to preserve battery life. Frequency division multiplexing allows up to 18 clients to send data simultaneously without creating signal contention or congestion.

The Wi-Fi Alliance’s new WPA3 security protocol enables more robust authentication and increased cryptographic strength for IoT data. It also makes it easier to onboard IoT devices that have no keyboards or user interfaces. Users can simply scan a device’s QR code, which prompts the protocol to automatically provision the device with network access credentials.

Because IoT relies upon a somewhat fragmented ecosystem of standards, services and devices, initiatives can stall due to complexity. A common issue is integrating the IoT framework, the existing physical infrastructure, the wireless LAN and a variety of applications and services running in the cloud. Ruckus addressees this problem with its IoT Suite, a collection of IoT networking products that will integrate with its existing network controllers.

IoT Suite is designed to help organizations create IoT access networks that effectively consolidate multiple physical-layer networks into a single converged network. The idea is to create a way to safely bring IoT traffic into the larger enterprise network and do away with proprietary connectivity silos.

IoT Suite features IoT-ready access points (APs) that communicate with an IoT controller, which in turn communicates with a standard LAN controller. Pluggable IoT modules allow the APs to establish Wi-Fi connections with IoT devices. These modules also support endpoint connectivity based on other popular wireless standards such as enable endpoint connectivity based on standards such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), Zigbee and LoRa protocols.

The IoT opens up a world of economic opportunities, but connecting devices with existing physical, virtual and cloud resources can be a complicated process. Although new industry standards and new vendor solutions are addressing pain points, IoT initiatives still create unique difficulties for network designers. IPC specializes in advanced Wi-Fi and IoT solutions. Give us a call to learn more about enhancing your wireless network to support IoT initiatives.