BOFFINS HAVE found a way to extend the range of standard WiFI connections just by changing some software.
The team from Brigham Young University in Utah found that the big problem with range could be solved just by getting the access point to keep reminding the surrounding area it was still there.
The technique which has been termed On-Off Noise Power Communication (ONPC) keeps the WiFi signal from dropping because it is able to send a single bit of "noise" data every second to show it is still broadcasting.
To put it in context, that's a millionth of the data currently required for a WiFi signal to hold its connection. In other words, it prevents packet loss on unstable connections, much as keeping the phone off the hook keeps the line.
In testing, a bog-standard access point (router, basically) was able to reach 67 metres further with the new software, with researchers estimating that a boost of up to 200-metres is possible.
It's not actually increasing the range, but rather using the "noise" signal as a "stay alive" message, which means more of the existing range is usable. This makes it particularly good for devices that sit idle a lot, such as sensors.
"That's the really cool thing about this technology: it's all done in software," said Phil Lundrigan, assistant professor of computer engineering at BYU. "In theory, we could install this on almost any WiFi-enabled device with a simple software update."
Eat that, mesh devices.
"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.
There are a number of open-source projects like DD-WRT, OpenWRT and Tomato which offer customised firmware for popular models of router. If any of them pick up the option to incorporate this "LoRa" technology, it could make reflashing your router rather sexy. µ
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