|Researchers have found that your IoT network's range could expand by adding wireless noise / Photo Credit: sdecore (via Shutterstock)|
The range of your IoT network’s WiFi and other wireless communications could be increased by adding wireless noise, as reported by Patrick Nelson of network news and trends site Network World. It does sound counter-intuitive but it could extend the “range of an off-the-shelf WiFi radio by 73 yards,” according to a group led by Brigham Young University (BYU). Wireless noise, which refers to a disturbance in the signal, is usually unnecessary.
Authors Philip Lundrigan, Neil Patwari, and Sneha K. Kasera wrote on research platform ACM Digital Library that the on-off noise power communication (ONPC) protocol functions via software hack on commodity WiFi access points. Part of the transmitter is converted to an RF power source through the software. Then, elements in the receiver are transformed into a power measuring device. The power source creates noise energy, which is “encoded, emitted, and picked up by the measuring setup at the other end.”
In a BYU press release, Patwari of Washington University explained, “If the access point, [or] 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,” as quoted by Todd Hollingshead. The noise channel is leaner than its WiFi counterpart. WiFi needs at least a speed of one megabit per second to maintain a signal, while ONPC can maintain a signal for one bit per second. For IoT sensor housekeeping, that is enough.
The study’s researchers found that they were continuously installing sensors for environmental IoT experiments in “hard to reach” areas. Lundrigan and colleagues placed a sensor in a student’s bedroom where the occupant placed a laundry basket in front of the device. The basket obstructed the native WiFi signal. Sadly, the scientists were not able to get a site appointment for weeks due to unforeseen changes in the student’s life. Moreover, they could not figure out if the issue was “sensor or like” during that time.
ONPC would have reassured the researchers that the data was still being collected and stored (or not) without visiting the site. On the other hand, they also reckoned cellular, Bluetooth, and LoRa could utilize ONPC. Lundrigan added they can send and receive data regardless of what the WiFi is doing. He said, “All we need is the ability to transmit energy and then receive noise measurements.”