Page 56 - Security Today, September/October 2021
P. 56

The IEEE 802.11ah protocol was developed to meet the low- power, long-range connectivity requirements of IoT devices. The standard was ratified in 2016, and dubbed “Wi-Fi HaLow” by the Wi-Fi Alliance. The commercial rollout of Wi-Fi HaLow technology is well underway, with transceivers, SoCs and modules available now to system developers, and a certification program is expected in 2021.
Wi-Fi, in all of its manifestations, is the most pervasive short-range wireless protocol used today in homes, offices and public spaces. As Wi-Fi technology continues to evolve, the rapid growth of the IoT has sparked a rethinking of Wi-Fi, exposing technological gaps and revealing new ways the protocol can progress to meet the needs of our increasingly connected world.
Wi-Fi HaLow fills these gaps by providing an ultra-low-power wireless solution that connects larger numbers of IoT devices at much longer distances than conventional Wi-Fi, and at a higher data rate and security level than alternatives like Bluetooth, Zigbee or Z-Wave. Wi-Fi HaLow supports both indoor and outdoor applications, such as battery-powered wireless doorbells, security cameras, drones and surveillance systems. The lower the frequency, the better the penetration, and as a sub-1 GHz protocol, its RF signals can pass through walls and other barriers more easily than competing 2.4 GHz options, let alone even shorter range 5 GHz and 6 GHz radios. A single Wi-Fi HaLow access point (AP) can also reach thousands of connected devices, bypassing complex, bandwidth-constrained mesh networks, thereby simplifying installation and minimizing total cost of ownership.
The Wi-Fi HaLow standard’s unique combination of native IP support, high data rates, low latency, exceptional energy
efficiency, long-range connectivity and security features makes it an ideal protocol choice for integrated access control systems.
In addition to supporting smart locks, security cameras, card readers, gates and myriad wireless sensors, these systems also must support emerging security and health screening devices deployed in response to the COVID-19. For example, the seemingly simple act of entering the front door of an office involves multiple decisions: confirming a person’s identity, validating the security profile, and assessing the current environment in which a person seeks access.
Adding to the complexity of existing secure access protocols, new COVID-19 screening procedures require low-latency, session- oriented connections of multiple inputs and outputs supported by an integrated system controlling hundreds or even thousands of connected devices. Wi-Fi HaLow is an ideal wireless protocol for these increasingly complex and diverse access control tasks.
SCALING ENTERPRISE ACCESS CONTROL SYSTEMS Security and access control devices in large-scale commercial buildings and campuses typically include electronic strikes, magnetic plates, hybrid smart locks, external keypads, RFID card scanners, and egress triggers on the inside of entries such as passive infrared (PIR) motion detectors and request-to-exit (REX) buttons. With new COVID-19-related health policies and procedures in place, many commercial buildings and offices have added health-screening kiosks, thermal cameras to monitor body temperature, and video cameras to help ensure health compliance such as wearing a facemask.
In a typical access network, a PC-based security system connects

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