Future tech: improving Wi-Fi
Wireless networks are a vital part of the new workspace, allowing users to access company resources and make calls wireless calls without being locked to a fixed location. Over the years, Wi-Fi has come to dominate wireless networks, and in many offices has nearly completely replaced fixed networks.
Like many successful technologies it has been around for years – Wi-Fi was first named in 1999 – and continues to evolve. We take a look at some recent technology innovations in Real Times that promise to improve Wi-Fi in the near, medium and long term.
New start-up, Eero, offers a device-based mesh Wi-Fi solution comprising devices that talk together to create an overlapping and extending Wi-Fi grid across the home or office. That’s the same kind of mesh principle applied by Sonos in their music player systems and while it’s more expensive than traditional routers it does make for a more robust LAN that’s better equipped to support multiple devices than standard Wi-Fi.
Another approach comes from smart antenna maker Ethertronics, which is applying an active antenna technology it originally developed for mobile phones to Wi-Fi routers. Its newly introduced chip uses active steering algorithms to create multiple radiation patterns around the same antenna, when a device wants to get online the tech selects the ideal pattern to deliver the best experience to that device.
This means even hard to reach parts of a location will get an optimized experience, the company promises up to 45% better throughput. The tech hasn’t reached market yet, but Ethertronics (which makes the antenna in many smartphones) hopes router manufacturers and ISPs will take a look.
Finally, Oxford University researchers are working on an alternative to Wi-Fi (“Li-Fi”) that uses light to transmit data at between 112Gbps and 224Gbps – significantly faster than 802.11ac. Li-Fi relies on a base station installed on the ceiling that passes data in light to a computer using “holographic beam steering”.
Li-Fi limitations: the computer must be static and in direct line of sight of the router and the range is just 3-metres. The researchers hope to develop a tracking system to enable this Li-Fi tech to find mobile devices coming into range.
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