Why your wireless cameras should run on Wi-Fi HaLow

The growth in wireless video surveillance systems has increased demand for makers of commercial and consumer cameras. Wi-Fi cameras have simplified the deployment and setup of these systems. However, traditional Wi-Fi technology does not adequately fulfill the need to reach farther distances, penetrate obstacles better, and operate longer on batteries without adding substantial cost and complexity to the network.  A new kind of Wi-Fi is needed to meet all those needs in a secure and simple infrastructure.

Technology using the IEEE 802.11ah standard, referred to by Wi-Fi Alliance as Wi-Fi HaLow, is the solution.

Reach + Penetration = Reliability

“If only my wireless camera could reach farther.”

Consumers expect that their wireless cameras will work out-of-the-box. Manufacturers of cameras know that no home or office is the same. The distance from the desired camera location to the Wi-Fi router may dictate whether there is enough bandwidth to support a clear picture.  An average of 1 to 5 Mbps throughput is typically required, depending on the desired resolution and data compressions algorithms used for video. Some cameras require far less bandwidth if they preprocess images with AI technology, and then only send segments of interesting activity.

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The layout of every building is different, where walls and objects cause reflections or absorption of the signal.  There is no guarantee that great Wi-Fi coverage inside the home will extend beyond brick, stone or stucco walls where security cameras may need to be placed. To compensate for these drawbacks, many manufacturers must provide power supplies or bigger batteries, as well as additional proprietary repeater or hub boxes to relay the signal. This adds cost and complexity. For some long-distance applications, traditional 2.4GHz Wi-Fi simply cannot reach.

For most of these boundary conditions, IEEE 802.11ah technology is the optimal replacement for traditional Wi-Fi and cellular connections.   IEEE 802.11ah Wi-Fi HaLow has the advantage of operating in the sub-GHz radio frequency range (902MHz-926MHz), much lower than traditional Wi-Fi (2.4GHz).  HaLow also uses narrower channels than traditional Wi-Fi. The combination of HaLow’s lower frequency and narrower channels provides a combined benefit of working up to 10 times farther than Wi-Fi, at the same transmitter power levels.  HaLow cameras continue to send video where traditional Wi-Fi cameras lose their connections.

Another natural benefit of HaLow’s operation in sub-GHz bands is that the radio waves penetrate through objects and building materials better than 2.4GHz Wi-Fi. This improves the reliability of the connection for the camera to the Access Point (AP), which can compensate for a variety of home or business architectures. The effects of precipitation in outdoor applications are also reduced. The 2.4GHz energy used by traditional Wi-Fi is readily absorbed by objects and liquids (which is why microwave ovens also use 2.4GHz to heat food). By taking advantage of the benefits of lower-frequency radio for reach and penetration, new HaLow-based cameras can be deployed to reach farther and through obstructions.

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Power Efficiency + Security = Longevity

“If only my wireless camera batteries lasted longer”.

As mentioned above, Wi-Fi HaLow connections reach 10x farther distance than traditional Wi-Fi, at the same transmitter output power.  Wi-Fi HaLow is also the first 802.11 technology to include new sleep capabilities, which reduces energy consumption. These combined features offer the benefit of extending the battery life of wireless cameras with HaLow technology from 10 to 200 times longer than traditional Wi-Fi, depending on the use of the camera. Wi-Fi HaLow maintains the same benefit of Wi-Fi in that it automatically works at faster, more energy-efficient, data rates when the device is closer to the AP.

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Transmission of data consumes the majority of energy in a radio system.  The longer a radio can stay in listen mode or sleep mode, the more energy it saves. A traditional Wi-Fi camera must typically wake to transmit approximately 3 times per second to stay associated with its AP. If they do not stay connected, cameras are disassociated from the AP. This typically requires the device to go through a lengthy reassociation procedure when it wakes, which uses up more energy.  

In contrast, HaLow cameras can sleep for long periods of time without being disassociated from the AP. The mechanism is built into the standard. There is no need for separate proprietary schemes to implement the solution. The 802.11ah Wi-Fi HaLow standard includes provisions to sleep for hour, days, and even weeks until triggered by a sensor, further improving battery life.

In addition to the power savings afforded by the standard, Morse Micro’s unique low-power CMOS circuit design techniques further enhance battery life.  We have years of experience in understanding how to reduce the power dissipated by active components in our ICs. Our architecture has the unique ability of being reprogrammable with over-the-air updates to firmware; allowing power optimized firmware upgrades to be deployed to our customers’ applications in the future.


Need more information around Wi-Fi HaLow and power consumption? Download this white paper and learn more.

Wi-Fi HaLow uses the latest security technology of the industry; WPA3. This technology dictates the way a device associates to the AP and encrypts all the traffic to protect the user’s video from prying eyes. There is ample bandwidth to provide additional encryption features. Morse Micro ICs, which include unclonable identity functions, can ensure camera can power up and create a secure link to their trusted cloud-based services. This can protect the end-user from device hacking, and it provides a method for future firmware updates to be pushed over the airwaves to improve security and power savings. Maintenance costs of climbing ladders or renting scissor lift platforms is saved.

Low Cost of Ownership = Faster Return on Investment.

“If only my wireless camera didn’t require data plan charges.”

By greatly increasing the distances that can be reached by Wi-Fi HaLow technology, larger areas can be covered without having to resort to cellular data modem connections and their recurring costs.  Analogous to traditional Wi-Fi, a Wi-Fi HaLow network infrastructure can be installed as a simple addition to the customer’s IP network. One could buy standard APs with HaLow capability and connect them to the wiring closet.  No repeaters or complex Wi-Fi Mesh solutions are required. No cellular modem charges are required. The CIO does not need to negotiate a separate carrier service agreement for what should be part of the enterprise’s premise network.

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This also applies for quasi-mobile applications.   Consider the example of a new construction site which requires full-time video security.  Instead of purchasing 4 or 5 cameras using cellular modems with large batteries and recurring monthly data plan charges, one could deploy multiple low-power HaLow cameras and use a single low-cost LTE gateway for the uplink to the cloud.  Another example would be that of campus security officers with body-worn cameras. They could respond to calls within a fixed neighborhood, with images sent to a nearby AP or mobile Wi-Fi HaLow hotspot in a vehicle. This technology could also extend to drones which need high-bandwidth connections for video and control signals to a base station. Directional antennas commonly used by drone systems would apply to 802.11ah frequencies (902-928MHz in North America), and would increase connection distances beyond the nominal 1km reach.

Morse Micro’s goal is to develop the best low-power, long-distance 802.11ah Wi-Fi HaLow ICs to support a broad range of applications. Get in touch here if you are interested in using Wi-Fi HaLow for your product.

Nadine Frick