The Beacon

The future of farming: Testing the rural range of Wi-Fi CERTIFIED HaLow™

November 21st, 2022 by Neil Weste

With the potential to revolutionize agriculture, improve yields and protect the environment, it’s easy to understand why the smart agriculture market is predicted to reach $24.3 billion by the end of 2022. Last year, farmers installed 27.4 million wireless IoT devices; a number that has risen steadily over the last five years. The increasing use of these devices suggests that today’s farmers require the same level of connectivity as residents of urban environments, if not more.

Harvesting the power of long-range, low-power connectivity is essential to farming in the modern age. With a plethora of connectivity options on the market, Morse Micro conducted testing to better understand how the range of Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Halow™ could perform in rural environments. This test utilized the Morse Micro MM6108-EKH01 Wi-Fi HaLow™ evaluation kit on two farms in Southern Australia to determine the maximum range to cover IoT sensors, actuators, and cameras across paddocks and pastures. Note: the MM6108-EKH01 is an implementation of the IEEE 802.11ah standard in a convenient form factor.

Phase 1:

For this test, Morse Micro upgraded the 900 MHz antenna included in the MM6108-EKH01 to a 1.2 meter (m) 6 decibel relative to isotrope (dBi) omnidirectional vertical antenna on the Access Point (AP), which acted as the ‘base station’. The AP antenna was located on the roof of the homestead at a height of approximately 10 m to create the best line of sight coverage for the farm. The mobile station was placed on top of a car at various test locations. The BSS operating channel was 8 MHz wide and automatic rate shifting to lower MCS rates was enabled, achieving total coverage of the farm at a variety of bit rates. The table below displays throughput versus path results, with the User Datagram Protocol (UDP) and Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) columns showing a range of throughput from worst to best case for several runs. 

Path

User Datagram Protocol (UDP)

Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)

700 m (roof antenna)

4 to 6.4 Megabits per second (Mbps)

3.1 to 4.4 Megabits per second (Mbps)

2 kilometers (km) (roof antenna)

1 to 1.5 Mbps

160 to 600 Kbps (kilobits per second)

Phase 2:

Two paths were attempted in this test, one leading back to the homestead, and the other leading to a dam. It is important to note that the longest path from the high spot to the homestead was "line-of-sight", but the path to the dam was not. The table below displays throughput versus path results, again with the UDP and TCP columns displaying a range of throughput from worst to best case for several runs.

Path

UDP

TCP

House (2.1 km line of sight)

2.1 to 7.8 Mbps

600 Kbps to 5.1 Mbps

Dam (800 m non-line of sight)

600 Kbps to 6.8 Mbps

600 Kbps to 4.5 Mbps

Connectivity yields

Several observations emerged from these initial tests. First, for line-of-sight paths, Wi-Fi HaLow is very robust at 2 km and has the capacity to reach farther with the setup mentioned above. Second, in shorter, but non-line-of-site paths, the technology still performs well, likely due to variables such as knife-edge diffraction or vegetation scattering. Fluctuations in throughput were likely caused by moving people, equipment, and foliage but overall had little impact across tests.

As there is no need for proprietary hubs or gateways, enabling a single access point to support more than 8,000 IoT devices, Wi-Fi HaLow would be particularly useful for livestock or monitoring field conditions. In addition to long-range connectivity that extends more than 1 km from the access point, Wi-Fi HaLow’s ultra-low power enables IoT devices to run on batteries for months (if not years), which is again beneficial to the rollout of IoT infrastructure in agricultural environments.

There are many other considerations in dense farm situations, but overall, our tests support that Wi-Fi HaLow is an excellent choice for rolling out a high data rate, high capacity, farm-wide IoT network.

 

The statements and opinions by each Wi-Fi Alliance member and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions or views of Wi-Fi Alliance or any other member. Wi-Fi Alliance is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information provided by any member in posting to or commenting on this blog. Concerns should be directed to info@wi-fi.org.

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Neil Weste

Morse Micro

Neil is an Australian inventor and engineer, noted for having designed a 2-chip wireless LAN implementation and for authoring the textbook Principles of CMOS VLSI Design. He has 20+ years of experience in Wi-Fi and is the VP of engineering at Morse Micro.  He was the founder of Radiata, which produced the world’s first Wi-Fi 802.11a chip, before being acquired by Cisco.