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Use Wi-Fi Halow technology to build a smart and sustainable energy infrastructure

June 04, 2021

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The Wi-FiHaLow technology is named by the W-Fi Alliance and standardized by the IEEE802.11ah task group. Compared with traditional Wi-Fi, Wi-FiHaLow uses lower frequencies and narrower frequency band channels. The combined effect of this is that the connection distance is longer and the total energy consumption is lower. The device can communicate with an access point (AP) up to 1 kilometer away, depending on the country's regulations on wireless communication systems. For some clean energy systems spanning several square kilometers, Wi-FiHaLow can connect more than 8,000 devices to one access point.


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Although traditional Wi-Fi is the most common wireless communication protocol currently in use, the rapid development of the Internet of Things has forced people to rethink Wi-Fi, revealing technological gaps, and in an all-encompassing interconnected and green world. What role does Wi-Fi need to play? Many Internet of Things and machine-to-machine (M2M) applications, with higher requirements for remote connection and low power consumption, are welcoming the development of Wi-FiHaLow now and in the future at an increasingly faster speed.


The impact of Wi-FiHaLow is everywhere, from home building automation systems to clean energy systems, including solar, wind, energy storage and geothermal systems.


Improve the efficiency of existing systems


Existing infrastructure such as energy creation, transmission, storage, distribution, and consumption can all benefit from immediate improvements in efficiency. Small-scale improvements on a large number of consumer devices can have a significant impact on demand. Studying consumption patterns can better predict how to control power grids and power stations. Wi-FiHaLow simplifies the process of connecting more devices across longer distances, allowing smart systems to take advantage of more fine-grained information and control.


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Home automation


The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system is one of the largest energy-consuming devices in the home. When a wireless connection is added to the programmable thermostat, the homeowner can remotely adjust the settings via the Internet cloud application. However, not all homeowners plan their systems in an effective way. According to the actual usage pattern of the system, the smart thermostat will adjust the settings to improve efficiency, taking into account the occupancy of the house. These systems can also be improved by integrating higher-level information in an ecosystem where the homeowner’s location and schedule may be known.


Traditional Wi-Fi may require the purchase of repeaters or data traffic to connect smart thermostats and routers, which increases cost and energy consumption. The low-power Wi-FiHaLow thermostat can be more easily connected to a home Wi-Fi router, simplifying installation costs, and it is possible to use a battery-operated thermostat without a power cord. The various components in the HVAC system, such as air handlers, furnaces, heat pumps, air-conditioning compressors, and sensor devices located in different locations in the home, can be interconnected through Wi-FiHaLow instead of wired cables. Each component can become an unconstrained modular component in the HVAC system, each component can be integrated into the usage analysis, and with the emergence of more efficient technologies, each component can be independently upgraded.


In addition, the new Wi-FiHaLow sensor, such as monitoring room occupancy, sunlight angle, humidity and air pollution, can provide more comprehensive information for the HVAC system for intelligent response. The location of the Wi-FiHaLow sensor can be selected based on the best information it provides, rather than being restricted to a non-optimal location due to the limited coverage of Wi-Fi. These passive systems only require very low energy. If they can be reliably connected to a location far away from the access point (AP) through the Wi-FiHaLow network, the demand for HVAC systems can be greatly reduced.


Building Automation System (BAS)


Wi-FiHaLow can also improve the efficiency and cost of ownership of HVAC systems in commercial buildings. Take the air conditioning system of a large office building as an example. This entire network of compressors, sensors, thermostats, and dampers can be networked to provide a high-level view of building performance for on-site or cloud-based building management system (BMS) monitors. The traditional method of constructing this kind of network relies on connecting wired power and signals to most components. Some systems integrate short-range wireless mesh networks, including 802.15.4Zigbee or proprietary radios for sensor devices. Several stages of proprietary hubs or gateways increase latency and limit data throughput on the path from these devices to the building management system (BMS) on the Internet.


Compared with these wired technologies and proprietary wireless technologies, Wi-FiHaLow integrated circuits have unique advantages. Since Wi-FiHaLow operates in the frequency range below 1GHz and uses a narrower channel bandwidth, it is easier to penetrate walls, ceilings, floors and other objects than wired technology or 2.4GHz wireless technology, so the device can be placed where needed Where there are fewer restrictions. This eliminates the need for multi-stage mesh connections and repeaters, reducing infrastructure costs and the number of energy-consuming devices.


Smart meters and smart grids


The utility meter using Wi-FiHaLow can be connected to a distance of more than 1 km (according to the regulations of the Federal Communications Commission). Since a star structure can be used, this simplifies the power company's network. A single access point (AP) in a community can monitor the electricity consumption of thousands of homes. Wi-FiHaLow also improves the security of data transmission between families by adopting Wi-Fi's WPA3 encryption technology. The meter using Wi-FiHaLow can negotiate the sleep time with the access point (AP), saving power when communication is not required. Competitive product solutions based on Zigbee wireless technology (whether 2.4GHz or sub-1GHz IEEE802.15.4gWi-SUN) rely on the mesh network of the device to transmit information back to the public utility gateway of the cell to access the IP The internet. As mentioned earlier, such a mesh network will cause delays and reduce the total network throughput of all other nodes in the mesh network.


The power distribution infrastructure that powers homes and businesses can also benefit from Wi-FiHaLow connectivity. The supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system relies on sensors to understand the operation of the entire network, thereby deciding how to manage the grid. The situation monitored in the substation is usually used to infer what caused the failure of the downstream lines, which supply power to the nearby transformers. By installing more sensors, obtaining more data, and getting a more granular understanding of the status of the secondary network, including the condition of each nearby transformer, the SCADA system can make better decisions on how to respond . Wi-FiHaLow's coverage and high throughput are far more than one kilometer, and can be used to collect sensor data from substations and surrounding areas.


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Solar energy


Over the past few decades, the cost per kilowatt of photovoltaic (PV) systems that convert sunlight into electrical energy has dropped significantly. A large part of the cost reduction is due to the increase in the efficiency of photovoltaic panels. The best solar panels currently have an efficiency of around 25%. Another part of the cost reduction is due to technological innovations, such as micro-photovoltaic inverters and optimizers, to make the best use of the energy of each panel. To generate the average electricity required by a regular household, fewer panels are needed now than in the past. The monitoring system can track the status of each panel on the roof of the building and provide feedback for the device to reach the peak power. Some of these components may communicate through the power cord. A single Internet connection, usually via Ethernet, Wi-Fi, or cellular modem, combined with a solar system to connect to the home's grid.


By using wireless communication in each panel, micro-inverter, power optimizer, and grid-connected switch, the entire photovoltaic system can be monitored at the finest level without relying on data flow through power cables. These integrated circuits (ICs) can operate at very low voltages and can save energy by sleeping when idle. Through the local IP wireless communication network, each component can be connected to the cloud management system. In the future, obsolete components can be upgraded individually to more efficient components without having to be backward compatible with wired communication protocols. Interoperability between different component suppliers can encourage innovation and competition, thereby accelerating the growth of the consumer market.


Energy storage


Batteries provide the best choice for small equipment and vehicles to store electrical energy. By extending the battery life of wireless sensors, Wi-FiHaLow reduces the waste of disposable batteries and brings direct benefits to the planet.


Advances in lithium polymer (LiPo) battery technology have revolutionized industries ranging from smart phones to electric vehicles. The energy of the entire house may be stored in a large lithium battery hung on the wall. Smart battery chargers can store "free" solar energy in batteries, or they can be charged through the grid during off-peak hours. During peak hours, household batteries can return the required electrical energy to the house or electrical appliances, which would have been billed at a higher rate during peak hours. The coordination of all these systems can be assisted in each component through Wi-FiHaLow.


Electrochemical cells are not the only way to store energy. Converting electrical energy into kinetic energy can provide a way to maintain renewable and clean energy. The excess electrical energy can be used to spin large flywheels, which are usually rotated on low-friction bearings. When needed, the inertia of the flywheel can be re-converted into electrical energy through a generator. This concept is similar to hydropower or wind power, but in a more compact form. The various parts of the flywheel storage device can be networked with Wi-FiHaLow instead of relying on wires.


Wind energy


Each wind tower has a gearbox and generator, which convert the rotating wind into electricity, which is transmitted to the ground through cables. Therefore, bearings and gears need to be monitored to prevent premature wear or vibration. At the same time, the direction and pitch of the blades must be monitored to ensure stable power delivery to the grid. The wind tower also includes a variety of sensors to measure various environmental conditions, such as wind speed, wind direction and whether it is freezing. A network using Wi-FiHaLow can connect all of these functions, and the new small sensors can also be placed in places that may not be reachable before.


Geothermal, hydropower, natural gas, bioenergy


Wi-FiHaLow is an attractive wireless communication solution for these clean energy fields, because the technology can connect a large number of sensors and actuators. These clean energy fields are similar to applications in the industrial automation field. The Wi-FiHaLow sensor can be placed where the data cable cannot reach. Rivers can be crossed, and multiple wellheads in an oil field can be gathered. Process engineers have greater flexibility to design the best system without being restricted by running Ethernet cables or proprietary wired controller solutions.


Wi-FiHaLow aims to provide new choices for innovators in the field of renewable energy. Wi-FiHaLow also represents a wonderful future, which is to connect people and devices wirelessly through the Internet of Things. For the energy market, this means longer distances, lower power, better penetration, more native IP connections, and stronger security.