A group of researchers from BYU that was led by a computer engineering professor has created a protocol that can significantly extend the distance a WiFi-enabled device can send and receive signals. The most interesting part about the new protocol is that there is no new hardware required. The new protocol is aimed at Internet of Things devices.
The new protocol can extend the range of IoT devices like door sensors or motion detectors by more than 60 meters according to tests. Assistant professor of computer engineering Phil Lundrigan says that the cool thing about the new tech is that it is all done in software.
He says that “in theory,” the software his team developed could be installed on “almost any” WiFi-enabled device with a software update. The new protocol is called On-Off Noise Power Communication. Normal WiFi needs at least 1 Mbps to stay active and maintain a signal. The new protocol they developed needs only 1 bit per second.
That is one-millionth of the data speed that standard WiFi needs. The team adjusted the transmitter in a WiFi-enabled device to send wireless noise in addition to data. The programming turns the transmitter on and off in a pattern that the wireless router could recognize from the noise.
The patterns of on and off cycles let the router know that the sensor was still transmitting even if data wasn’t received. The team said that 1 bit of information is enough for WiFi devices that only need an on/off message, like a garage door sensor. The team says that the same technique could be applied to cellular or Bluetooth signals too.