The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is one of the most anticipated events of the year for true gadget nerds. Outside of company-specific events such as Apple’s WWDC or Google I/O, CES is where we see the future of the technology that we will all use in the near future.
However, when it comes to technology for business and the enterprise, CES can sometimes be a hit-or-miss affair. On the surface, that does seem to be the case for CES 2016, this week in Las Vegas, as most of the focus seemed to be on smart cars and homes, virtual reality, and drones. That’s not exactly technology that’s in the enterprise IT sweet spot.
But there was one announcement at this year’s show — one that flew a bit under the radar — that will have a huge impact on everyone, from business to consumers to the Internet of Things, and it wasn’t even a product announcement.
CES 2016 saw the debut of 802.11ah, or WiFi HaLow. This will be the next version of the wireless networking technology that we all rely on to connect our devices to the Internet, and it has the potential to be the most important new wireless networking standard in a long time.
That’s because, along with the expected improvements in network speed and coverage, 802.11ah “HaLow” is also expected to greatly reduce the power requirements of a wireless network connection. And this could be a huge development for the growth of the Internet of Things.
Think about it. Everyone knows that the one of the best ways to save the battery on your smartphone is to turn off WiFi. Leave WiFi on overnight, and by morning, your phone battery will be nearly dead. Turn it off, and you probably only lose a couple of percentage points in battery life.
If 802.11ah can deliver on the reduced power consumption (and its much greater range capabilities), it will be a big boost for wearables, sensors, and other Internet of Things devices, which will be able to connect to high-speed networks without the need for direct power connections or hefty battery requirements.
Of course, this change won’t happen overnight. The standard will take a while to become fully defined, and it will be months after that before we start to see devices and networking hardware that leverage 802.11ah.
But hopefully within a year or two, we will be able to say goodbye to our power-hungry WiFi connections and say “HaLow” to the future of wireless networking.