Thursday, 23 November, 2017

New low-priced device developed to boost wireless signal strength

Dartmouth's WiPrint tech uses low-cost 3D printed reflectors to custom improve WiFi signals A 'virtual wall' that improves wireless security and performance | EurekAlert! Science News
Velma Reese | 10 November, 2017, 11:51

Fortunately, a team of researchers from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire has devised a remarkably simple and affordable way to improve WiFi signals within an indoor space and even strengthen wireless security: 3D printed structures covered in aluminum foil.

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. It can also improve security by reducing signals to areas, such as windows, that provide opportunities for malicious actors to hack into the local network. Existing approaches to optimising wireless signals rely on directional antennae to concentrate signals, but this equipment is either hard to configure or beset by high cost.

In the future, those problems might be addressed by using millimeter waves or visible light signals that can be reflected or blocked more effectively, and by creating reflectors from materials that can be automatically reshaped to adapt to changing signal requirements, the researchers noted.

They developed a program called WiPrint and fed it with specifics like router location and target area (where they wanted the signal strength to improve).

According to a report in EurekAlert, the custom-built reflector, which is made of plastic and thin metal, essentially works as a signal-shaper.

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After testing the reflector in two different rooms, the team found it was able to increase the strength of coverage by a whopping 6dB, the equivalent of one thick wall or ceiling.

Excluding the price of the 3D printer, a reflector costs around $35 to make. The idea is to eventually create an object that can actually change shape if the room's layout changes.

"W$3 e aim to strengthen the signal in regions where high performance is desired, and weaken the signal in regions where malicious third-parties could potentially be eavesdropping", the study's authors wrote in their research paper. The reflector is also relatively easy to place.

Other researchers involved in the study included Dartmouth's Xi Xiong, Ethan Yu, and Nisha Kumari; University of Washington's Justin Chan; University of California-Irvine's Ardalan Amiri Sani; and Columbia University's Changxi Zheng.

The low-cost contraption was created by scientists from Columbia University and Dartmouth College who teamed up to develop a "virtual wall" that helps to improve a Wi-Fi signal inside an indoor space with multiple rooms.

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