Bringing the Internet to Your Barn When You Don't Have WiFi
So, your barn doesn't have WiFi - but you'd really, really like to use [insert the latest equestrian techy gadget here, be it a camera system or the smart halter].
With the cell carriers phasing out the 3G network in North America to make room for 5G expansion, we aren't able to continue offering cell plans for the smart halter. That means that having WiFi in your barn is now a requirement for use, but not all barns are equipped.
Don't throw in the towel yet, as there are a few options you might consider to get your barn connected in the absence of having a new cable line run out to your barn:
Range Extenders & WiFi Repeaters: Range extenders and repeaters are devices that connect to and amplify an existing WiFi network. Sometimes these are a good solution if there is already WiFi on the property, such as in a home or office building, but it just doesn't reach to the barn or paddock your horse will be in. These are also a great choice if you have a WiFi network in the barn but the coverage doesn't reach the furthest stalls.
Keep in mind that whatever signal strength is present where the repeater gets plugged in is the signal strength it is amplifying, so be sure you're able to plug it in somewhere that there is still moderate to strong signal. PC Mag has these recommendations for Range Extenders in 2022, with pros and cons.
Mesh Networks: Mesh networks are systems that utilize multiple Wi-Fi stations working together to provide blanket coverage of a larger area than a single network.
Portable Hot Spot Devices: These devices convert a 4G, LTE, or 5G cellular signal into a WiFi network. Some of these are offered through cellular carriers (check yours to see what they offer!) and can be added to your cellular data plan, and some are through independent companies that don't require subscriptions. PC Mag has some recommendations for Mobile Hot Spot devices for 2022 with pros and cons.
- Mobile HotSpots: in a pinch, your cell phone's hot spot could be turned on and used as your WiFi network. We don't recommend this as a long term plan, but it could serve as a temporary solution to connecting your smart halter or other WiFi-enabled device.
- Satellite Internet: not known for being the highest quality or fastest internet connection, satellite internet is sometimes an option for rural areas that don't have other cable internet choices.
Keep in mind that the smart halter requires a 2.4 GHz WiFi connection as you're evaluating these devices. Most modern routers can provide a 2.4 GHz and a 5 GHz band to connect to, which can be configured during setup. In general, 2.4 GHz band WiFi networks provide greater coverage and range, but transmit data at a slower speed. The smart halter sends a small amount of data per connection, less than a text message, so the 2.4 GHz WiFi band is actually to your advantage in getting better coverage of your facility!
But what does the future hold?
As we think to the future of technology, there are many opportunities to further connect us. Future technologies like Starlink high-speed satellite technology and LoRa long range wireless technology will open many doors for connectivity in remote areas. There are countless potential applications that are relevant to both the equine and greater animal science communities, from monitoring equine Olympic athletes during air travel, to collecting health and performance metrics during endurance races, to the monitoring of endangered species.