Category: Wireless Networking

It could be touch-to-connect for Wi-Fi devices very soon

Article

WiFi Alliance adds support for NFC | NFC World

My Comments

Two “quick-setup” features that I have liked are coming together very shortly for wireless routers and network-enabled devices. These features are being exploited by device manufacturers who want to be part of the level playing field and desire to see innovation.

One of these features is the WPS-PBC “push-to-connect” functionality where you invoke a WPS setup option on a client device you want to enrol then press the WPS button on your wireless router to “enrol” your client device in to your home network’s Wi-Fi segment. This feature has made it easier to bring new Windows  7/8 computers, Android mobile devices amongst most other Wi-Fi-capable devices in to a home network without having to transcribe in long WPA-PSK passphrases. I even set up one multiple-access-point network to allow this to happen on both access-point devices when I was fixing up network-connectivity issues. Similarly, I was pleased with a TP-Link TL-WPA4220 HomePlug wireless access point that used “Wi-Fi Clone” to learn network parameters from an existing Wi-Fi network segment at the push of a WPS button so it can be quickly set up as an extension access point.

Another feature that I am pleased about is NFC-based Bluetooth pairing. This is primarily used on most Sony Bluetooth-capable devices but other manufacturers are increasingly enabling it. It allows you to touch your phone or computer to the Bluetooth-capable device to instantly pair and connect both these devices. When I bought the Sony SBH-52 Bluetooth headset adaptor with FM radio, it didn’t take me long to “get going” with this device because I simply touched my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Android phone to it to achieve this goal.

Now the Wi-Fi Alliance have merged both technologies and defined NFC “touch-and-go” setup as part of WPS-based wireless network setup standards. This functionality was seen as part of a “long-tail” vision for the WPS secure-network-setup standards with routers having to support the PIN-based and “push-to-go” methods. They defined a framework based around certain access-point and client chipsets including the Google Nexus 10 Android tablet. For that matter, Android, Linux and Windows 7/8 users could find this functionality either as a small app or “baked in” to an operating-system update.

This is another innovative step that will assure quick setup for Windows and Android devices with small-network Wi-Fi segments especially as most of the recent crop of these devices are equipped with NFC “touch-and-go” functionality and Wi-Fi connectivity.

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Olympus’s voice recorder that works with a smartphone via Wi-Fi

Article

You Can Start and Stop This Wi-Fi Voice Recorder From Your Smartphone | Gizmodo

From the horse’s mouth

Olympus America

Press Release

Product Page

My Comments

When I mentioned about the digital cameras in my first report on the Consumer Electronics Show 2014, I had gave a brief mention to the Olympus DM-901 digital voice recorder which is able to exploit Wi-Fi wireless network technology. The question that could be raised is whether the recorder works as its own wireless network or is able to be part of an existing small wireless network such as a home network, a phone’s “personal hotspot” or a Mi-Fi’s local network.

This recorder uses Wi-Fi alongside a smartphone app to provide it with remote-control ability. For example, when you are recording a presentation, you could place the recorder on the podium or a piece of furniture near where the speaker is and choose where to sit rather than always having to be “up the front” with your recorder to make sure it’s recording properly.

There is also the ability to upload pictures you take with your smartphone to the recorder in order to create a visual index. This would be relevant when you are taking pictures of the slides shown in the presentation or items that are being demonstrated through that presentation or you take a picture of someone who is giving their report in a multi-speaker meeting.

The recorder also has the ability to upload recordings to Dropbox for cloud-based archiving or sharing but I would also like to see this be extended to the ability to upload to SoundCloud or other audio-sharing services.

Like most of the good-quality voice recorders, the Olympus has the voice-recording optimisation abilities which include 2 high-grade microphones with “zoom microphone” function that also ramps up the recording level, along with a voice-balancing algorithm to balance between loud and soft voices.

There is the 4Gb on-board storage but the Olympus has an SDHC card slot so you can record to SD cards and have separate SD cards for each project you are working on. The 4Gb on-board storage can allow for 850 hours of lowest-quality recording (WMA 8kbps mono). There is a high-quality PCM recording option along with the microphones having a 70Hz-20KHz frequency range that may get you by for basic live-music recording needs like recording a child singing or playing the piano. The battery can run for 29 hours recording on a single charge which will give you room for some of the big audio note-taking projects.

Personally, I would like to see future generations of this recorder also have Bluetooth A2DP or DLNA-over-Wi-Fi playback abilities so you can play the recorder through the new crop of wireless speakers for a larger room-filling sound yet have a wireless link. Similarly, a model with an external microphone input or line-level input could come in handy if the goal is to obtain a better recording from a PA system’s microphone. The Wi-Fi functionality could also be augmented with direct support for PassPoint-enabled Wi-Fi hotspots because of the prevalence of hotspots at meeting venues and hotels.

But what I see of this is a cutting-edge voice recorder that offers functionality that wouldn’t be offered on this class of device.

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802.11ac Wi-Fi network specification now a standard

Article

802.11ac Specification Is Final | SmallNetBuilder

My Comments

There is a lot of Wi-Fi wireless-network hardware out there that is compliant to the 802.11ac wireless-network specification but this equipment is built on a draft version of that standard. This standard uses the 5GHz band to offer around very high data transfers with rates that are even close to Gigabit Ethernet speeds. Some of us may be loathe to buy or specify the earlier equipment due to it not working well with equipment from different vendors due to the earlier draft standards.

But this week, the IEEE standardisation body have called the final version of the 802.11ac specification a final standard which is capable of even working to 7 Gbps. To make sure that your current 802.11ac equipment works to this standard, it is worth checking at the manufacturer’s Website for newer firmware that implements the final version of this standard.

Similarly, it would be the time to be able to buy or specify 802.11ac wireless-network equipment that works to the final standard or is able to work to that standard after a firmware update. As far as rolling out or improving your wireless network is concerned, the 802.11ac-compliant wireless router or access point can work with 802.11n clients at the 802.11n speeds but I would recommend these are set for any n/ac compatibility mode.

For that matter, this announcement has not come at a good time as the Consumer Electronics Show 2014 in Las Vegas due to the plethora of home and small-business network equipment based on this standard being launched there. The next milestone would be for Intel to embed this technology in to their Centrino wireless-network chipsets to work with the latest laptops. Welcome to lightning fast Wi-Fi multimedia on your tablet or Ultrabook.

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AVM releases HomePlug AV500 access point that is ready for home automation

Article – in German language

Internet per Stromleitung: Anschluss der Powerline an Steckerleisten kann die Leistung beeinflussen | NetzwerkTotal.de

From the horse’s mouth

AVM

Product Page (German language)

My Comments

AVM, known for their premium Fritz!Box routers have launched their latest HomePlug AV500 wireless access point which is a device that I consider important for stone-built European country houses that are “Wi-Fi difficult”. This unit, known as the AVM FritzPowerLine 546E provides a Wi-Fi segment to the dual-stream 802.11n specification for the 2.4GHz band and supports WPS push-button client-device setup as has been talked about in this article concerning WPS in a multi-access-point network.

But it is also ready for the IPv6 home networks which are a reality for anyone using a recent high-end consumer or small-business router and will become common as more countries roll out next-generation broadband.

But the FritzPowerline 546E is one of the few HomePlug access points equipped with a filtered mains outlet which you can plug equipment in to. AVM takes this further by making this socket a switched socket which works with their home-automation software. For that matter, this function is manageable through the device’s Web user interface and provides not just instant remote “on-off” but a time-switch function.

What I see of this device is that it isn’t just like other HomePlug wireless access points but is offering more functionality in a different way. This is especially as the HomePlug powerline network is being considered very clearly in the UK and Europe as a viable no-new-wires network segment.

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A HomePlug access point that works on both the Wi-Fi bands available from Solwise

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Solwise

Value – Aztech HomePlug AV with Dual Band WiFi – PL-HL117EW

My Comments

We are seeing a lot more of the Wi-Fi access points that use the HomePlug AV powerline-network technology as a backbone but these typically work on the 2.4GHz waveband, now using 802.11g/n technology.

But Aztech have released a HomePlug wireless access point that works on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands rather than just the 2.4GHz band. The Aztech PL-117EW uses a HomePlug AV500 powerline network segment or an Ethernet segment as its backbone, so can be used for a “wired-for-Ethernet” house with the ability to create a HomePlug AV500 segment as well as being an access point.

It satisfies the reality that a home network will be needing the 5GHz 802.11n wireless network segment everywhere especially as the 2.4GHz band becomes more congested. There is the SimpleConnect “push-button” setup for the HomePlug segment as well as a WPS push-button setup for enrolling new Wi-Fi clients close to it. As far as I know, it misses out on the simple “Wi-Fi clone” function which aids setting it up as a secondary access point.

What I see of this is the idea of using the “wired no-new-wires” network that is HomePlug AV as a backbone for extending wireless-network coverage hasn’t died off and is appealing to the UK market as a valid home-network setup option in the face of the cheaper wireless-network range extenders. This device underscores this reality by extending it to the 5GHz Wi-Fi band.

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2.4 GHz networking is five feet under with 802.11ac | Wi-Fi Alliance

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Wi-Fi Alliance

2.4 GHz networking is five feet under with 802.11ac | Wi-Fi Alliance

My Comments

The comments raised by the Wi-Fi Alliance about the fact that 2.4GHz-based Wi-Fi networking technology being a nearly-dead technology is something that I find a bit “too quick” at the moment.

One key issue is that there is still a significant number of Wi-Fi client-side and access-point-side devices which only work on the 2.4GHz band using 802.11b/g/n protocols in circulation. This is more so with mobile devices and specific-purpose devices like consumer AV where an upgrade to a 5GHz technology would be costly if not impossible.

In some situations, the 2.4 GHz band with the longer wavelength compared to 5GHz may be at an advantage when it comes to the longer-wavelength bands and frequencies offering better coverage. This may allow for fewer 2.4GHz access points to cover a space.

So if I was to create a upgrade a Wi-Fi segement, I would look towards implementing a simultaneous dual-band setup which works to 802.11n or 802.11ac on the 5GHz band and 802.11n on the 2.4GHz band. As well, I would prefer to buy or specify devices, especially laptops, tablets and smartphones that use dual band Wi-Fi technology.

As for configuring the networks, the 2.4GHz band would be working as 802.11g/n compatibility mode while the 5GHz band would be at 802.11n or 802.11n/ac compatibility mode. This is to assure greatest compatibility with most of the existing devices that are to work with the network.

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At last a HomePlug wireless access point that simplifies the wireless network extension process

Article – From the horse’s mouth

TP-Link

TL-WPA4220 – Welcome to TP-LINK (Product Page)

My Comments

One main reason most of us would buy a HomePlug-based wireless access point is to extend the coverage of that Wi-Fi wireless network past that radio obstacle like the double-brick interior wall without needing to pull new cabling. Or you don’t want to butcher your garden or dig up your lawn so you can reliably extend your home network with its Wi-Fi wireless segment to that garage or bungalow.

But a setup hurdle that one can easily end up with is copying the SSID (wireless network name) and network security parameters from your existing wireless router to the access point and making sure these are accurately copied so you can have proper roaming operation for your wireless network.

TP-Link have made this simple through the use of a “Wi-Fi Clone” button on the TL-WPA4220 access point. Here, this access point uses the WPS-PBC “push-button” setup routine to learn the parameters associated with your small wireless network segment.

This procedure has to be performed with this HomePlug access point in good Wi-Fi range of a router or access point that implements WPS push-button setup.You push the WPS button on your suitably-equipped wireless router as if to enrol a new device to your home network, then push the “Wi-Fi Clone” button to complete the procedure. This means that the access point has what is needed to be part of the Extended Service Set which is you home network’s Wi-Fi segment.

From that point on, you just simply establish that HomePlug AV powerline segment as the backbone for your wireless network and benefit from the increased coverage. But I would personally have this access point equipped with the WPS client setup mode for enrolling client devices close to it to avoid the need to traipse back to your wireless router to enrol that Android smartphone or Internet radio that is to be used in the remote area.

What I see of this is that steps have been taken in the right path to move away from the so-caled “range extenders” towards a more reliable and proven method of extending a wireless network’s coverage by simplifying the tasks required for achieving this goal.

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802.11ac for smartphones shown in an HTC Android phone

Article

Extended battery life with 802.11ac | Wi-Fi Alliance

My Comments

HTC have announced the next “refresh” of their One Android smartphone is to be equipped for 802.11ac 5GHz Wi-Fi segments. Plus there is some talk of other manufacturers fielding similarly-equipped smartphones for the up-and-coming Mobile World Congress that is to occur in Barcelona, Spain.

But, as with 802.11n, these phones will implement a single-stream variant of the technology. The reason why this is to be is because the digital signal processing required for handling a multi-stream signal required for these “MIMO-capable” systems is very taxing on the device’s battery runtime as has been explained in the article.

There will still be a significant data throughput and bandwidth bonus offered by these devices and, of course, smartphones that are equipped for 802.11ac will work with 802.11n networks on either the 2.4GHz or the 5GHz bands. This could really open up the 5GHz band for more of the handheld devices and legitimise its place in the creation of Wi-Fi segments.

A reality that is often missed with 5GHz is the fact that this band is like traditional FM radio on the 88-108MHz waveband compared to traditional AM radio on the 540-1600khz waveband. As I have observed even from childhood, it was feasible to pick up the AM stations over very long distances, even to the country areas while FM stations could be heard within the main urban areas. In some cases, a few AM stations with very low frequencies effectively covered the state of Victoria in Australia with a strong signal.

In this case, I would notice that access points operating on the 5GHz band used for 802.11n and 802.11ac will have shorter coverage areas compared to those on the 2.4GHz band for 802.11n. This will manifest in some situations where one router may cover a suburban block yet you may have to add a 5GHz range extender or access point with a wired backbone for the same coverage or the same router may have to use a stronger 5GHz antenna.

On the other hand, this band may allow for better handling of dense living areas like apartment blocks, but would require all Wi-Fi devices to support it in order to gain this benefit.

Who knows what this means for the evolution of the Wi-Fi wireless local area network especially as it is also considered as an offload companion to the 3G or 4G mobile broadband service?

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A wireless-broadband router for the boat

Pleasure-boats at a marina in MelbourneArticle – From the horse’s mouth

Netcomm

NTC-30WV-02 – Marine WiFi Router : NetComm Wireless (Product Page)

My Comments

You have that narrowboat, houseboat or large cabin cruiser that has effectively become your home away from home. In some cases, you may be spending a lot of your retirement years on this boat. But what about your Internet connection?

Netcomm have answered this need with their NTC-30WV-02 which is a “Mi-Fi” router that is optimised for the marine life in freshwater and saltwater. It works with most 3G wireless broadband services which will cover most inland freshwater and 60km off the Australian coast. That figure may be accurate for the East of Australia and similar coastlines that have many towns and cities and use the 800Mhz and 950Mbz spectrum for 3G wireless broadband.

For the LAN side of the equation, it uses 802.11n dual-stream MIMO for the Wi-Fi segment and 10/100BaseT Ethernet as its wired segment. This is being pitched not just for smartphones, tablets and laptops but also for network-capable navigation devices that will start to exist on the bridge of many pleasure craft.

Both sides of the equation are serviced by proper user-replaceable dipole aerials (antennas) which have a greater chance of yielding better 3G and Wi-Fi performance than the typical “Mi-Fi” router with its integrated aerials. It also could mean that a boatie could install stronger 3G aerials on this 3G router to satisfy more reliable performance when the anchors are up or they decide to

The same device also has a socket where you can connect a standard telephone handset or analogue / DECT cordless base station so you use the 3G connection to make and take calls on the boat. This can make things “sound normal” if you want to contact someone on land or they want to contact you out on the water because of the mobile number associated with the SIM card associated with your service.

This modem would come in to its own with “shared” and “family” data plans that cover multiple devices and use a large data allowance. But it can come in handy with “high-end” data and mobile plans that have higher data capacity if this is your sole connection like, for example, a retiree who lives out on the water.

The device can connect to a 12VDC 580mA (peak-demand) power supply which would apply to most of the “live-in” boats.

What I would like to see for this device is some support for WPS-PBC connectivity such as a membrane switch or terminal block so one can add on a “WPS PBC connect” button. Here, this can provide the quick wireless-network enrolment for devices and software that support it like Windows 7/8 computers, Android phones and most consumer electronics.

Similarly, this unit could be in a good position to support the new Wi-Fi PassPoint standards for hotspot login especially on the WAN side. Here, this function, along with a “range extender” or Wi-Fi to Wi-Fi routing function would team up well with the increasing number of marinas that are offering complementary Wi-Fi hotspot service as a service to the boaties who moor there. These features could cut out the extra hassle required with logging in to the Internet service whenever they arrive and tie up; and could allow for seamless cost-saving handover between Internet services.

Who know what this device and others like it could offer to the pleasure-boating community who work the coastline or inland waterways of many different countries in their vessels.

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nVoy–to simplify managing small networks

Website – From the horse’s mouth

nVoy home

My Comments

WD MyNet Range Extender

With nVoy, these devices become easier to set up and integrate in your network

There have been some previous methods available to allow one to manage a network from their desktop. One of these was SMNP which is used primarily to manage equipment in larger networks and is very difficult for anyone to use unless they had good IT skills. Another of these is TR-069 which was developed by the Broadband Forum for use by ISPs and telcos to set up and manage consumer modem routers.

These protocols, like a lot of other network discovery and management protocols relied on an operational network existing between the controller and the controlled device. Similarly, they haven’t work well as a way to allow an average householder or small-business owner to manage a small network effectively and with minimal help.

But a newer specification, known as the iEEE 1905.1 control specification had been set in stone and declared formal. It is now marketed as the nVoy specification and works at a level to manage network segments at the media level.

This is very important with the home-network setups that I prefer and stand for where there is an Ethernet and/or HomePlug AV wired network backbone along with an 802.11n Wi-Fi wireless network segment covering the property where the network is set up at.

This allows logic to be constructed to manage a Wi-Fi, HomePlug AV, MoCA or Cat5 Ethernet segment that is part of the typical home network without having to have a full IP logical network being alive across the whole network.  It also means that media-peculiar network-setup and diagnostics parameters like the ESSIDs and WPA2-Personal passphrases required for wireless networks can be propagated over different network media like Ethernet or HomePlug wired-network segments.

This simplifies setup routines like creating new Wi-Fi wireless or HomePlug AV powerline segments in a secure manner; or adding additional network devices to the existing heterogenous multi-segment small network. It even encompasses the establishment of secondary access points in order to extend the coverage of a Wi-Fi wireless network in a “cellular” fashion.

The user experience would be based on using NFC “touch-and-go” setup or two-button “push-push” setup of new Wi-Fi and HomePlug devices. As well, you would be able to manage the network from devices that use a full management interface, whether local to the network or remotely via something like TR-069 or SMNP.

Even through the life-cycle of the network, the nVoy specification can allow one to use a management interface at one single point of control to bring up diagnostic information about the network or parts thereof so as to identify points of failure or to optimise the network for best performance. The fact that nVoy is determined as a standard could allow computer operating-system developers to bake this function in to subsequent versions of their operating systems and establish one point of control in the operating system user interface.

Beyond the ease of setup and troubleshooting that it offers for small networks, nVoy has the ability to enable easy-to-manage “multiple concurrent pipe” connections in an easy-to-manage form. This allows for two or more connections to be aggregated for higher throughput, as a load-balancing arrangement so that particular traffic can go via one connection while other traffic goes via another connection as well as a fail-over arrangement if things don’t work out on one pipe. This will be more real with the common practice to equip most client devices with two or more network “on-ramps” such as Ethernet and Wi-Fi wireless.

Personally, I would also like to see nVoy work with most client devices in extending their network abilities. For example, a network printer or consumer AV device that has integrated Wi-Fi wireless and a wired connection like Ethernet or HomePlug be able to allow you to set up the Wi-Fi connectivity as an access point if it is connected to the network via the wired connection. Similarly, the same device could be set up as a wireless client bridge for another device like a PS3 or Blu-Ray player that is connected to the Ethernet socket on the device when it is connected via the wireless connection.

Similarly, the nVoy specification could also tackle quality-of-service for IP telephony, AV streaming and real-time gaming so as to guarantee throughput for these network activities. As well, when standards evolve for synchronous “broadcast” network activity on the different media such as for multi-channel wireless speakers or party-streaming modes, nVoy could be used to support network-wide synchronising abilities for these applications.

What I applaud about nVoy being set in stone is that the small network becomes easier to manage whether it is based on one segment or medium or uses many different segments or media.

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