Technology 3 min read

New Protocol Expands Signal Range of Wi-Fi Devices

Researchers have enhanced an existing protocol to expand the coverage of Internet routers, enabling WiFi devices to receive and send signals efficiently.

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A team researchers have created a new protocol to extend the signal range on WiFi devices. That means future IoT devices like door sensors and motion detectors will be able to send and receive signals over an extended distance.

The exciting thing is that the engineers didn’t have to create new hardware. Instead, they used a Wi-Fi access point to extend the signal range of WiFi-enabled devices by over 60 meters.

Speaking on the project, assistant professor of computer engineering at Brigham Young University, Phil Lundrigan, said:

“That’s the cool thing about this technology: it’s all done in software. In theory, we could install this on almost any WiFi enabled device with a simple software update.”

The researchers essentially programmed the new WiFi protocol right on top of the existing one and called it On-Off Noise Power Communication.

Now here’s the best part.

Regular WiFi requires a minimum speed of one megabit per second (1Mbps) to maintain a signal. The ONPC protocol, on the other hand, can keep a signal on as low as 1 bit per second.

That’s one-millionth of the data speed that an average WiFi requires. Here’s how it works.

Getting WiFi Devices to Send Out Wireless Noise

To extend the signal range, Lundrigan and his team had first to adjust the transmitter in a WiFi-enabled device. That way, it could send wireless noise along with data.

Next, they programmed a series of 1s and 0s into the WiFi sensor to turn the signal on and off in a specific pattern. Since the WiFi router could distinguish this pattern from the surrounding wireless noise, it knew that the sensor was still transmitting.

Neal Patwari of Washington University explained:

“If the access point (router) hears this code, it says, ‘OK, I know the sensor is still alive and trying to reach me, it’s just out of range. It’s basically sending 1 bit of information that says it’s alive.”

According to the researchers, 1 bit of information is enough for most IoT devices. WiFi devices such as garage door sensors, air quality monitors, and sprinkler systems simply need an on/off message to function.

What does the new protocol mean for the future of WiFi?

The researchers admitted that the ONPC protocol is not a replacement for the regular WiFi. Instead, it’s meant to supplement it.

For example, when a WiFi device loses its connection, it could start transmitting using ONPC.

With that said, the team believes that further studies could help improve the protocol.

We can send and receive data regardless of what WiFi is doing; all we need is the ability to transmit energy and then receive noise measurements,” Lundrigan said. “We could apply this to cellular or Bluetooth as well.”

Read More: New Study Warns That Hackers Can Access Your Smart Bulbs

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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