New low-priced device developed to boost wireless signal strength

New low-priced device developed to boost wireless signal strength

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.

The low-cost 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 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. By shaping signals, users can increase wireless efficiency through lessening the signal-deadening impact of building materials and interior layouts.

That is, by limiting the WiFi signal to certain indoor spaces, users can protect themselves better from nearby cyber attacks or unknown usage, and can even help to reduce interference with their own connections. The outlandish theory that foil improves a signal might not be so bogus after all. 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.

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According to Engadget, the reflectors are based on the idea of using an aluminium soda can behind a router to concentrate its signals in a specific direction. The researchers have managed to create exactly that, but one that's made of plastic and a thin layer of metal. The current research generalizes this idea by presenting a systematic approach to optimizing reflector shapes for enabling a more developed set of signal distributions. 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.

"With a simple investment of about $35 and specifying coverage requirements, a wireless reflector can be custom-built to outperform antennae that cost thousands of dollars", explained Zhou. To upgrade such a reflector, the researchers wrote a special algorithm. The team also developed an approach to simulating how radio signals spread and interact with objects in their environment. Researchers found that the reflectors can decrease strength by up to 10 dB where the signal is not wanted and increase strength by 6 dB where it is desired. The reflector is then placed around the antennas on the wireless router.

While the device works best with the 3D printed material, as it can more accurately capture and maintain the optimal shape for the desired coverage, the team also says you can create a similar structure using cardboard.

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.