Guest Column | November 20, 2023

Empowering Building Automation With Wi-Fi HaLow: Creating Efficient, Secure And Sustainable Spaces

By Prakash Guda, Morse Micro

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With the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the increasing adoption of digital technology, our reliance on connectivity has grown exponentially. This surge in demand has driven significant advances in wireless communication technology. A game-changing innovation in this sphere is Wi-Fi CERTIFIED HaLow, a certification released by the Wi-Fi Alliance in November 2021. This variant of Wi-Fi, operating in the sub-GHz band and optimized for the long-range, low-power needs of the IoT, offers transformative features that promise to enhance building automation systems, creating efficient, secure, and sustainable environments.

Wi-Fi HaLow: An Introduction

Wi-Fi HaLow, which is based on the IEEE 802.11ah standard, provides long-range wireless communications exceeding 1 Km, ultra-low power, advanced Wi-Fi CERTIFIED WPA3 security, and impressive network capacity for IoT devices. The protocol is capable of connecting more than 8,000 devices from a single access point, covering an area 100 times larger than that of traditional Wi-Fi networks.

What makes Wi-Fi HaLow a disruptive force in the IoT landscape is its superior technical capabilities and potential to transform multiple market segments within building automation systems, including access control, security, HVAC, safety devices, and power and water management. The improvements in range and in penetration of building fabric offered by the sub-GHz band are particularly beneficial for commercial buildings and multi-dwelling units (MDUs), where long-range wireless connectivity and efficient resource management are vital. Retrofitting large heritage buildings with the latest sensors and cameras is now a possibility with Wi-Fi HaLow.

Access Control: Seamless And Secure

Wi-Fi HaLow can play a key role in the realm of access control — encompassing integrated badge/credential scanners, IP cameras, facial recognition systems, door locks and gates, and alarms. The sub-GHz band used by Wi-Fi HaLow offers superior penetration capabilities, ensuring reliable connectivity through walls, doors, and other barriers. This means devices situated in remote and difficult-to-reach locations can remain connected.

Moreover, Wi-Fi HaLow brings advanced security features to access control applications, creating a highly secure wireless network that is vital for managing access control. Wi-Fi HaLow adheres to global standards for secure IoT authentication and connectivity, and it supports the latest Wi-Fi CERTIFIED WPA3 requirements for authentication and AES encryption for over-the-air (OTA) traffic and firmware updates. This level of comprehensive security is paramount in today's technology landscape, where both physical and digital security threats are increasingly prevalent, particularly in commercial buildings and MDUs.

HVAC Systems: Smart And Energy-Efficient

Wi-Fi HaLow's ultra-low-power operation offers significant advantages for managing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. As it can connect numerous low-power IoT devices from a single access point without expensive cabling, the protocol can be used to create more extensive networks to monitor and control temperature, air quality, and HVAC equipment performance.

Wi-Fi HaLow technology leads to improved energy management and reduced deployment costs, which in turn promotes a better living and working environment. The efficiency of HVAC systems directly impacts occupant comfort and well-being, making it a critical factor in commercial and residential buildings.

Safety Devices: Long-Range Connections And Multi-Year Battery Life

As a sub-GHz protocol, Wi-Fi HaLow’s robust penetration capabilities enhance connectivity for safety devices, such as environmental sensors, gas detectors, occupancy sensors, and smoke alarms, even in basements and other traditionally hard-to-reach areas. The protocol’s low-power consumption enables multi-year battery life for sensor devices. Developers can use Wi-Fi HaLow technology to create a building-wide network of safety devices, ensuring faster response times and improving overall occupant safety, a crucial consideration for any commercial or residential building.

 Sustainable Power And Water Management

Effective power and water management are vital to the pursuit of sustainability and cost efficiency. Wi-Fi HaLow's long-range, low-power wireless connectivity enables building managers to monitor and control power and water usage more efficiently. The technology streamlines the transmission of real-time data across long distances and through barriers that block other wireless signals, enabling building managers to make informed decisions on resource management. Proactive measures, driven by this real-time data, can significantly reduce wastage, enhancing the sustainability of power and water resources.

 The Future Of Building Automation

Wi-Fi HaLow is more than a new form of Wi-Fi; it represents a paradigm shift in wireless connectivity for building automation. Its superior range, low-power operation, and exceptional penetration capabilities make it an ideal choice for transforming buildings and MDUs into intelligent, efficient, secure, and sustainable spaces.

 Offering much more than incremental improvements in connectivity, Wi-Fi HaLow presents a promising future for building automation and a leap forward in creating smarter, safer, and more sustainable spaces, changing the way we live and work.

About The Author

Prakash Guda is Vice President of Marketing and Product Management with Morse Micro, a fast-growing fabless semiconductor company focused on Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity. He has more than two decades of experience in the wireless technology sector and a track record of creating industry-leading products in multiple vertical markets.