One of the more fascinating aspects of our eternal march toward ‘the future’ is the occasional, but impacting, intersection of our critical infrastructure and the general consumer. Like a sine wave across the axis, our connected world meets at points in time that catalyze technological explosions. The transition of computers from behemoth industrial-sized calculators into the first iteration of the personal computer is a good, somewhat recent example. So is the Internet. Each of those began as a fairly raw tool used for enterprise industrial services before intersecting with the consumer and birthing new innovations and applications.Today, the connected world on the horizon, envisioned by dreamers and pragmatists alike, is taking form on the backbone of wireless connectivity in a way that has the ability to impact our critical industries, our smart cities, our homes and our daily lives like never before.
Remote Wi-Fi is a tool that has enabled connectivity and data transport for industries like oil and gas, precision agriculture, utilities and seismic monitoring, leading to a boom in the use of predictive analytics to better streamline the work processes in the field for these traditionally remote areas. However, two of the main problems with traditional remote wi-fi network deployment are the security of these networks, as well as the latency of the data transmission. To combat this, these industries have turned to the use of shorthaul (between 1-5 miles) wi-fi hotspots to utilize built-in security measures and decrease latency for data-intensive applications like voice, video, data and sensor connectivity.
As a result, these industries have been better able to collect and transport data throughout an entire smart ecosystem, affecting everything from decision-making in the field, to the way the consumer can track personalized utility usage. Our smart cities and municipalities depend on data collected remotely to anticipate infrastructure-related resiliency issues, like grid outages, seismic events and disaster preparedness. Companies in these industries depend on remote data to solve production, maintenance and transport problems.
Wi-Fi Will Save the Connected World
In early January, the Wi-Fi Alliance, a worldwide network of companies trying to standardize global Wi-Fi provision, announced a new protocol that promises to trigger changes throughout the industrial landscape. Wi-Fi HaLow, as it is called, is an addendum to the IEEE 802.11ah protocol that is set to be finalized later in 2016. HaLow operates in frequencies below 1 GHz and can potentially provide a longer range than Wi-Fi has traditionally offered. The implications for remote Wi-Fi and the Industrial Internet of Things are huge. The addendum means more efficient battery usage due to operating on a lower frequency and with a lower data rate, which, in turn means a greater range and lower transmission power. This standard is still awaiting a final vote, so before we anoint HaLow as the magic bullet for which the Internet of Things has been waiting, the IEEE standards committee will have its say.
To come full circle, the potential advent of better long-range Wi-Fi in remote settings could be the next intersection of the axis and the sine wave, enabling innovation and growth at both the industrial and consumer levels of connected-world technology.