April 22, 2018

New low-priced device developed to boost wireless signal strength

10 November 2017, 08:21 | Lucia Cruz

A 'virtual wall' that improves wireless security and performance | EurekAlert! Science News

Dartmouth's WiPrint tech uses low-cost 3D printed reflectors to custom improve WiFi signals

Researchers at Dartmouth College have discovered that 3D-printed signal reflectors made out of foil and plastic "drastically improve the wireless signal around a home". The researchers, whose findings were earlier reported on by TechRadar, first tried aluminum drink cans and cut them into a circular shape to reflect a signal towards dead areas.

The project itself is called WiPrint and consists of a software program that can generate WiFi reflector shapes based off of parameters the user inputs.

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. Second, it allows you control over your WiFi signal, which has more benefits than you think.

If you have a spotty Wi-Fi signal in your home and you're looking for a solution, go into the kitchen.

"Through this single solution, we address a number of challenges that plague wireless users", said Xia Zhou, assistant professor at Dartmouth.

Wrapping a foil around a router's antenna can make for reflectors, which strengthens the signal in one direction. By creating the reflector and combining it with aluminum foil, they were able to dramatically reduce the seeping of signal into the unused rooms and deliver far more signal to the room they wanted to deliver more wireless to.

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Aside from increasing Wi-Fi signals, a reflector can also help to improve Wi-Fi router security, according to Zhou. You can see an example of the results above, wherein the two rooms on the left are to be blocked out and the yellow signifies WiFi strength.

And while they used a special 3D printed material in the ideal shape, the researchers acknowledge that not everyone has access to the 3D printer. How cheap it is.

They say that it is possible to use cardboard to get the wavy structure - although it may not have the exact same effect.

With information on a specific interior space, locations of wireless access points and the desired target area, the system computes an optimized reflector shape in only 23 minutes. The team also says it will investigate higher frequency bands such as millimeter waves and visible light. The whole unit (excluding the cost of the 3D printing), costs around $35 (£27), which is much lesser than directional antennas that cost thousands of dollars.

The Dartmouth team will be presenting its innovative research this week at ACM's BuildSys 2017 in Delft, The Netherlands.

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