Technology

CES Highlights: Wi-Fi Alliance Tries New Frequency

This year's edition of the Consumer Electronics Show, currently taking place in Las Vegas, has featured a lot of retro comebacks and a lot of ambitious devices. The Wi-Fi Alliance broke through, however, with a wide-reaching new wireless standard specifically designed to power the Internet of Things.

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES), put on each year by the Consumer Technology Association, is full of big announcements (as always), but the biggest might just be a new twist on a technology you use every single day.

The Wi-Fi Alliance, the primary standards body in the wireless networking space, announced this week a new variant of the Wi-Fi standard that’s supposed to work over long distances, making it perfect for connected devices, or the Internet of Things.

Rather than relying on the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz bands traditionally used by most Wi-Fi devices, the standard supports the slower 900 MHz band, which makes up for its slower speeds (estimated to be a maximum of 18 megabits per second) by connecting over very long distances, as far away as 1 kilometer from the primary point of access. The wireless band can also travel through walls and other barriers, making the technology particularly beneficial for business or industrial environments, and its power requirements are far below faster wireless standards.

Because it relies on the same technology as the traditional Wi-Fi spectrum, new Wi-Fi HaLow devices will support the existing standards—meaning they’ll connect to your current networks, if needed. (Because there are 6.8 billion current wireless hotspots, this backward compatibility is important.)

“Wi-Fi HaLow expands the unmatched versatility of Wi-Fi to enable applications from small, battery-operated wearable devices to large-scale industrial facility deployments—and everything in between,” Wi-Fi Alliance President and CEO Edgar Figueroa said in a news release.

Other CES highlights to keep an eye on this week:

0105_curie

Speaking of the Internet of Things, Intel’s new Curie modules aim to bring sensors to a wide variety of devices, offering benefits to both wearables and physical devices. These sensors can communicate with larger computing devices, allowing for two-way communication that can be used in a variety of contexts. Information Week notes that Intel sold the concept at its event with the help of extreme sports, such as BMX biking, and announced an ambitious marketing deal with Red Bull.

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Perhaps the biggest single product launch of CES is the Oculus Rift, which now has a price ($599) and a launch date (March 28, 2016). The Facebook-owned virtual reality platform is currently taking preorders.

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The most interesting story of the conference might be the ambitious comeback plan from camera-maker Kodak. The company, which exited bankruptcy a little more than two years ago, revealed a plan to bring back its iconic Super 8 video cameras. The cameras, which will be released in the fall, have an iconic look and support both film (dedicated Super 8 film cartridges) and digital formats (the devices include USB and HDMI ports, along with a flash memory slot).

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And, as always, lots of wacky stuff: From a caterpillar-shaped Fisher-Price toy that teaches young children how to code to a $5,000 smart fridge that includes a gigantic touch screen, there was a lot of focus on ambitious technology at CES this year. And major trends were in play, too, including the return of the turntable.

(Jack Gruber/USA Today Network/Reuters)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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