Researchers use FM radio to improve wireless signals2015-11-19 02:48 by Daniela
Researchers from Northwestern University have discovered a way to solve problems caused by competing wireless networks. It is known that wireless networks in neighboring areas can interfere with each other thus causing speed slowdown. Now, the reasearchers have come up with a simple way to prevent this – and improve Wi-Fi speeds - by simply using an FM radio.
"Most people think it's a mystery," says Aleksandar Kuzmanovic, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Northwestern. "They get upset at their routers. But what's really happening is that your neighbor is watching Netflix."
"Our wireless networks are completely separate from each other," said PhD student Marcel Flores, the lead author of the study. "They don't have any way to talk to each other even though they are all approximately in the same place. We tried to think about ways in which devices in the same place could implicitly communicate. FM is everywhere."
The team invented a technique called "Wi-FM," which allows co-existing wireless networks to communicate through ambient FM radio signals. This means that your connection speed will be stable even when your neighbor is watching Netflix, and vice versa. The technology identifies the usage patterns of other networks in order and then determines what is the best time to send data by detecting the lightest and heaviest traffic times. It can also adapt if the patterns change.
"It will listen and send data when the network is quietest," Flores added. "It can send its data right away without running into someone else or spending any time backing off. That's where the penalty happens that wastes the most time."
According to the team FM is attractive for several reasons. For one, most smartphones and mobile devices are already manufactured with an FM chip hidden inside. FM is also able to pass through walls and buildings without being obstructed, so it's very reliable.
The technique has been recently presented at the 23rd Annual IEEE International Conference on Network Protocols in San Francisco.
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