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Hyperconnected Internet of Things Driving New Wi-Fi Standards, Google & Intel Dreams

August 26, 2015

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a chaotic sea of devices, connectivity, and applications, with everyone working to link everything together in every possible way.  A new Wi-Fi standard is in the news this month, designed to specifically support IoT devices, while Google's new router is being linked to the company's own IoT plans.  Intel also recently had plenty to say about IoT and wireless.




A lot of rah-rah this month is out around 802.11ah, the IEEE's latest standard to support machine to machine (M2M) communications.  Based on a "down-clocking" of 802.11ac, the new spec is designed to support sensor networks, backhaul networks for sensors and meter data, and Wi-Fi extended range networks.   Think large coverage, low power consumption, and large numbers of devices that can be supported.

Under 802.11ah, you can associate up to 8,191 devices with a single access point through a hierarchical identifier structure, with one-hop network topologies and designs for short and infrequent data transmissions.   Data is designed to be bursty, using 150 Kbps data rates for devices to quickly transmit small amounts of information to conserve power.

Radios will use unlicensed frequencies between 755 Mhz and  928 Mhz, with different frequencies used depending upon local regulation, with a range of roughly a kilometer between devices.  Use of the 900 Mhz band means you can get a Wi-Fi offer coverage to hard-to-reach places like garages, back yards, attics, factories and other large buildings.

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Finalization of 802.11ah is expected next year, but it isn't clear if the new standard will help to clear up the soup of existing "standardized" wireless technologies – Wi-Fi, Zigbee, and Bluetooth -- being applied to IoT devices, or if this is going to be Yet Another standard in the toolbox that device manufacturers will tinker with.

Google's new OnHub home Wi-Fi "router" is getting a hard look as being an IoT gateway -- key phrase in its name is "Hub."  The device supposed the latest and greatest 802.11ac WiFi speeds in 2.4 Ghz and 5 GHz spectrum for router usage, but it also includes Bluetooth 4.0, SmartReady, 80215.4 Zigbee,a nd Google Nest Weave, so it can talk to low-power devices as well as Nest thermostats and Dropcam for video. 

OnHub comes with an On app for setup and security through any Android or iOS device. It's easy to see how OnHub will link together home monitoring devices, providing WebRTC-based support for audio and video between devices and a user's phone or tablet.  Having just bought a 802.11ac router a few weeks ago, I'm almost tempted to put it up on eBay so I can get an OnHub router to play with.

Intel's vision for IoT starts at the cellular base station, where billions of devices will talk to the brains at the base station.  Service aware networks will automatically prioritize network requests and allocate resources to fulfill them. For example, a WebRTC video session would get priority on the network over the dribble of bits coming from smart sensors needing to report to a cloud service, with SDN and NFV kicking in on the fly to allocate local priority resources for voice and videoconferencing.

A lot of Intel's IoT story is built around 5G -- whatever that is defined as this week. Future high speed wireless networks are expected to be anywhere from 100 to 1000 times faster than today's offering, with sub-millisecond latency for real-time interactive applications such as immersive virtual reality settings.

And let me not forget Intel's IoT gateway, described among the keynotes at IoT Evolution.   The company is providing pre-integrated and pre-validated hardware with critical software components, enabling the seamless and secure collection of data from systems that aren't connected today.  Intel is putting the hardware out there to accelerate IoT applications, since a lot of its customers don't want to worry about building a security and management solution from scratch. 




Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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