Can Wi-Fi industry keep up with IoT?

A recent conference focused on the world of Wi-Fi highlighted the immense opportunity created by the blossoming of the Internet of Things (IoT) space, as long as the wireless industry can keep pace with IoT’s rapid growth.

RCR Wireless News reported that IoT was the hot topic at the Wi-Fi Now 2016 conference held recently near Washington, D.C. And it’s no wonder, considering the 8 billion Wi-Fi-enabled devices currently in use and the additional 3 billion expected to ship in 2016.

Wi-Fi Alliance president Edgar Figueroa highlighted the huge wireless industry opportunity emerging from the IoT space. He said not only were large numbers of devices relying on existing standards, but an increasing number were implementing the new Halow wireless standard that can support low-power transmissions up to 1km away.

“[Wi-Fi] is the beast of burden of data, and it is becoming more and more the definition of the Internet itself,” Figueroa said. “We do live in world of Wi-Fi. It’s here, it’s now, and it’s not going anywhere.”

Wi-Fi not the only game in town now

But the enormous installed base of connected devices had led to a proliferation of competing wireless standards and networks, which is presenting its own technological challenges.

Trond Wuellner, who leads Google’s OnHub in-home Wi-Fi device development, said OnHub often locates as many as 18 other Wi-Fi networks in the vicinity, on both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz ranges.

“The contention for this network is incredibly strong,” said Wuellner, who predicts that the density of competing networks will keep growing.

He added that it was vital that Wi-Fi industry leaders continue to pay attention to customer experience and usability, for general IoT applications and in smart houses.

“The connected home is sort of this mythic dream,” said Wuellner. “A lot of people aren’t ready for that. … We really have to keep our focus on the user.”

Speakers at the conference also highlighted the ongoing challenges that IoT was presenting in the wireless security realm. Wuellner raised concerns that many industry routers employ vulnerable and outdated security measures due their ease of support.

“All the routers that I’ve seen in the industry are vulnerable,” said Wuellner. He added that Google pushes OnHub software updates every six weeks to stay on top of security threats.

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