CES 2016: Wi-Fi Alliance’s HaLow Opens Up the Internet of Things


Wi-Fi Alliance HaLow

Wi-Fi HaLow is setting a new standard for the Internet of Things (IoT) operating in frequency bands below 1 GHz, offering longer range and lower power connectivity to Wi-Fi products incorporating IEEE 802.11ah technology.

This enables a new suite of power-efficient use cases in smart homes, connected cars, healthcare, industrial, retail, agriculture and smart city environments.

By extending Wi-Fi into the 900 MHz band, Wi-Fi HaLow paves the way for low power connectivity for sensors and wearables with a range nearly twice that of today’s Wi-Fi. The new standard addresses a core problem for gadgets like door sensors, connected bulbs or cameras that require power to send data over long distances to routers or remote hubs.

“Wi-Fi HaLow expands the unmatched versatility of Wi-Fi to enable applications from small, battery-operated wearable devices to large-scale industrial facility deployments and everything in between,” said Edgar Figueroa, President and CEO of Wi-Fi Alliance, in a press release.

For example, a sensor on a water pump or a water leak detector in a basement of an industrial plant or home would benefit from Wi-Fi HaLow, reports Computer World. “The signal could carry a 900 MHz signal through a concrete wall, at low power, to an access point and on to the rest of the network in the cloud.”

The Alliance’s goal is to connect everyone and everything. Since 2000, the Wi-Fi-certified seal of approval has been given to more than 25,000 products and HaLow products will join the list in 2018.

HaLow is Wi-Fi’s alternative to Bluetooth and the competition is heating up as the wearables and sensors markets explode.

“If HaLow really can do what the Alliance says it can, it would be a big deal,” notes The Verge. “It’s essentially promising to do everything Bluetooth can, but at a longer range and with the ability to connect directly to your router, and therefore the internet…The reason that HaLow seems to have Wi-Fi superpowers is that it’s operating on a much better slice of spectrum.”

The implication for brands is significant and major players like Google are eagerly pushing into “conversational commerce.”

“This trend toward conversational commerce, in my view, does spell the end of Google as we know it,” said Chris Messina, the designer who gave us the hashtag, formerly worked at Google and is now an independent product designer, according to USA Today. Messina called the experience of trolling the internet in return for only somewhat relevant links “inhuman.”

“An average phone user spends 84% of his or her time in just five apps,” said Julie Ask, principal analyst at Forrester in USA Today. “Brands are realizing that people just aren’t spending time in their apps so the companies are trying to engage you in places like Facebook because they know you spend a lot of time there…In the US, Facebook and Google are going head-to-head … They are aggressively chasing this.”

Google is testing a chat service with automated, embedded “chatbots” while Facebook is iterating its “M” digital assistant within Messenger.

Brands moving into conversational commerce must pay attention to their words, said Ben Eidelson, former Google product manager now running Mensch Labs. “We want existing companies to be able to use messaging as a sales channel,” he told USA Today. “Language is, in a way, everything here. Their content needs to be on brand, that is the new retail experience for the customer. Customers will be very turned off if the brand isn’t thoughtful about that.”

Interbrand, parent company of brandchannel, knows a thing or two about the importance of language—it coined the name and logo for Wi-Fi in 1999.

The Wi-Fi Alliance hired Interbrand to find a name “a little catchier than ‘IEEE 802.11b Direct Sequence,'” Phil Belanger, founding member of the Alliance who presided over the selection of the name, said Interbrand invented Wi-Fi as a play on words with Hi-Fi (high fidelity).