Wi-Fi is like oxygen for our connected world. It’s the most pervasive wireless networking protocol used today, carrying more than half of all internet traffic. “Wi-Fi” is a catch-all term for the growing family of 802.11 protocols that have evolved over more than two decades. The Wi-Fi Alliance, the organization that drives Wi-Fi adoption and evolution, has simplified the names of commonly used Wi-Fi generations with a numerical nomenclature, e.g., Wi-Fi 4 = 802.11n, Wi-Fi 5 = 802.11ac, and Wi-Fi 6 = 802.11ax. Chances are you’re using one of these flavors of Wi-Fi in your home or workplace.
Despite the ubiquity of Wi-Fi 4/5/6, the rapid growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) has forced a rethinking of traditional Wi-Fi. That reassessment has revealed technological gaps and redefined the roles that 802.11 protocols should play in today’s wirelessly connected world of ultra-low-power IoT devices. The higher demands for long-range connectivity and low-power requirements of IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) applications are driving the need for another type of Wi-Fi optimized for the IoT.