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09 November 2017, 06:08 | Justin Tyler
A 'virtual wall' that improves wireless security and performance | EurekAlert! Science News
If you have a spotty Wi-Fi signal in your home and you're looking for a solution, go into the kitchen.
The team, led by assistant professor Xia Zhou, placed a 3D-printed reflector made of just plastic and a thin layer of aluminium around a Wi-Fi router.
The problem the researchers tried to address was too much wireless signal seeping into two rooms in the house and not enough wireless signal getting into an area where it would be used most.
It also helps to reduce interference and help protect against cyberattacks, as it limits the signal to certain spaces. When placed on or next to your WiFi router, the 3D printed panel should effectively shield your signal from certain areas (such as the outside) and direct stronger signals to the areas you have requested.
After that, they chose to get a little more sophisticated and used an app called WiPrint to develop a reflector that could bounce wireless signals around the home. The placement is created to stop signals from going in one direction and reflecting those trying to go elsewhere into an area where it's most desired.
Because the current design is limited by its static shape, the research team will now study reflectors made of different materials so that the device can automatically adapt its shape when the interior layout changes. More specifically, they discovered that the reflectors were capable of decreasing the WiFi strength by up to 10 dB for blocked areas and strengthening it by 6 dB for target areas.
'Cardboard would act as a reasonable substitute for the 3D printed substrate, ' Justin Chan noted on YouTube, in a comment accompanying the video demonstration.
It's clever stuff indeed, and the researchers are now looking at ways to use different materials (other than plastic) to refine the WiPrint system further. How cheap it is.
"With a simple investment of about $35 (€30) and specifying coverage requirements, a wireless reflector can be custom-built to outperform antennae that cost thousands of dollars."
At the moment, however, the WiPrint software is not yet commercially available.
In the new work, the team build upon this idea, and designed an algorithm to optimize a reflector's shape to target more specific coverage areas. The team will also examine higher frequency bands such as millimeter waves and visible light.
The low-priced technique developed by researchers at Dartmouth College and Columbia University essentially creates a "virtual wall" to improve Wifi signal in indoor spaces with multiple rooms.
The Dartmouth team will be presenting its innovative research this week at ACM's BuildSys 2017 in Delft, The Netherlands.
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