Everyone loves Wi-Fi, but who hasn’t experienced issues with Wi-Fi signals not reaching through walls or to the other end of your office or house? Wi-Fi is also power-hungry and depletes phone batteries and other battery-powered devices like video cameras and doorbells.
Sydney based Morse Micro is a five-year-old company solving some of Wi-Fi’s biggest frustrations. The startup has made significant strides in Wi-Fi-based Internet of Things (IoT) as it expands overseas and paves the way for next-generation Wi-Fi-based IoT technology.
Morse Micro was founded by Michael De Nil and Andrew Terry, two lead engineers who met while working for global semiconductor company Broadcom, where they led the design of the Wi-Fi chip shipped in over a billion iPhones.
They were joined by early employee and investor Prof. Neil Weste, one of the original Wi-Fi inventors and founder of Radiata, an Australian Wi-Fi chip company that built the world’s first Wi-Fi 802.11a chipsets; Radiata was sold to Cisco in 2001 for $570m.
“Morse Micro is a fabless semiconductor company developing a new generation of long-range Wi-Fi chips,” Michael De Nil tells Dynamic Business in an exclusive interview from their new office in Bangalore.
“We are headquartered in Australia, with offices in the United States, China and now India. We have brought together the brightest engineers from around the world. We today have over 30 different nationalities in the organisation, most of those people moved to Sydney to come work with us on reinventing Wi-Fi for the Internet of Things.”
Smarter, farther, better
Morse Micro offers Wi-Fi HaLow (pronounced HEY-low) system-on-chip (SoC) and module solutions per the IEEE 802.11ah standard. These Wi-Fi chips have a much longer range than traditional Wi-Fi, allowing connections across walls and floors in residential, retail, office park, campus, warehouse, and factory environments.
“Wi-Fi Halow operates at a lower frequency; whereas traditional Wi-Fi operates at 2.4 Gigahertz (GHz), 5 GHz, and now 6 GHz, Wi-Fi HaLow operates at frequencies less than one GHz,” Michael says.
“Our Wi-Fi chips can stream video, reach over 1 km and are super low power, allowing devices to run for longer.”
“The product Morse Micro developed is a new generation of Wi-Fi chip that has ten times longer range than conventional Wi-Fi. So, if you consider two dimensions, you’ll cover 100 times the area compared to legacy Wi-Fi. And if you consider all three dimensions, you’ll cover 1,000 times the volume of traditional Wi-Fi,” Michael says.
“So, in for example a warehouse, supermarket, hotel or multi-story office building, you could cover the entire building with a single access point.”
Morse Micro has released two products — the MM6104 and MM6108 — both of which target the Wi-Fi HaLow standard. The MM6104 product targets a broad range of devices, while the MM6108 chip offers double the throughput and was designed for higher-end use cases such as security systems and HD video streaming.
NOT to replace traditional Wi-Fi
Michael explained that the Wi-Fi HaLow is not intended to replace existing Wi-Fi, which can today be found in every phone, laptop, or access point. Wi-Fi HaLow is instead supplemental to existing Wi-Fi and will be widely adopted for Internet of Things applications.
Dawn of a new era
Wi-Fi HaLow technology is expected to power a wide range of new IoT use cases, including sensors, remote metering, telemetry, and agricultural applications, as well as industrial IoT.
Michael believes that a plethora of new devices will emerge as a result of this new technology. “Wi-Fi HaLow is an enabling technology. Today, we’re looking at products already on the market and integrating our chips into them, just like standard Wi-Fi, but the vast majority of sales will come from new use cases and devices that aren’t possible with short-range traditional Wi-Fi,” he says.
“No other wireless technology can provide you with the range and throughput that Wi-Fi HaLow can deliver.”
Some of the applications are:
Wi-Fi HaLow in retail – Store managers can use Wi-Fi HaLow for new retail technology, including digital signs, electronic shelf labels, portable scanners, smart tags, smart lighting, and cameras.
Wi-Fi HaLow in logistics & asset management – The network infrastructure of a large warehouse must provide enough bandwidth and capacity for all of the devices on-site.
Traditional Wi-Fi networks require the installation and cabling of dozens of Wi-Fi Access Points in a large warehouse; Morse Micro’s Wi-Fi HaLow chip supports far more devices on a network (+8000) with a longer range and fewer access points.
Wi-Fi HaLow for access control systems – Access control systems ensure the security of a resource or facility and its occupants. Wi-Fi HaLow can reduce the complexity and cost of a project, whether it’s a single smart door lock for the home or hundreds of doors in a large hotel or business.
The security system design encompasses obvious points of entry, potential dangers, and the constantly changing credentials for users inside and outside the defined space.
Wi-Fi HaLow in industrial controls – Wi-Fi HaLow can enable the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) in factories, warehouses, and other industrial settings.
Using Wi-Fi HaLow, thousands of battery-powered sensors and actuators can be safely connected to a single Access Point (AP).
Chipping into new market space
“Every year, approximately four billion Wi-Fi devices are sold. Wi-Fi is now over 20 years old and was invented in Australia in the late 1990s, and it’s constantly evolving”.
The big chip companies have focused over the past 20 years on making Wi-Fi faster, at the cost of range and power consumption. Today’s Wi-Fi doesn’t always work well in a lot of homes, commercial and industrial situations. By expanding the range beyond 1km, we open up a massive market that traditional Wi-Fi can’t service.
Wi-Fi HaLow Certification
Morse Micro has unveiled the first Wi-Fi certified HaLow reference design to hit the market. Wi-Fi certified HaLow is a new certification programme for the 802.11ah standard introduced by the Wi-Fi Alliance for rapid mainstream adoption and multi-vendor interoperability.
The new reference design makes use of Morse Micro’s MM6108 and MM6104 SoCs to provide a single-chip HaLow solution and can achieve data rates in the tens of megabits per second.
“One of the main reasons traditional Wi-Fi has been so successful is because of its standards and certification programme. That means that if you buy a new phone, it will work with a Wi-Fi access point you bought ten years ago, which may have a completely different Wi-Fi chip. This is why people want to purchase Wi-Fi devices.”
“The same procedure is followed for Wi-Fi HaLow. We’ve been working on this with our competitors for the last four years. As a result, every Wi-Fi HaLow device will be tested against one of our solutions for compatibility. “
“It also means that we have Wi-Fi certified products from the start, which means that when you buy a product with one of our chips, you know it will work for the next five, ten, twenty years with a Wi-Fi HaLow compatible access point.”
Existing backers and plans for the future
Michael stated that developing the technology is complicated and necessitates the involvement of the best engineers in the world.
“We now have offices in China, India, the United States, and Australia. And we intend to continue expanding these teams and hire and bring on the best engineers in the company to develop next generations of products, products that can reach even further and travel faster.
“We’ve expanded from a team of about 20 people to a team of 120 people over the past 2 years and we intend to expand further.”
“We’ve got some fantastic investors in the company. One of our main investors is Ray Stata [who] was the founder and chairman of Analog Devices, one of the largest semiconductor companies in the world.
“Aside from Ray, we have some incredible investors in Australia, including venture capital firms Main Sequence Ventures & Blackbird Ventures, as well as the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, Uniseed, Skip Capital and many others. ”
Keep up to date with our stories on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.