In a normal household Wi-Fi signals work just fine if you have 4-5 devices accessing the Internet on a single Wi-Fi router. As the area of the household expands you begin to face difficulties. Add more devices and you have more problems getting the Wi-Fi signals. So you can very well imagine if you’re trying to access the Internet in a crowded convention hall or at a public place where lots of Wi-Fi access points are transmitting radio signals to hundreds of devices in the same vicinity, what a chaotic environment it creates for your Wi-Fi signal. The radio waves are constantly crashing into each other causing network congestion. A few MIT researchers have developed technology that predicts how the Wi-Fi radio waves are going to clash and then make changes in their paths accordingly, and consequently, boost Wi-Fi signals almost 10 times.
Radio waves, if you have seen a graph, travel in peaks and valleys. If these peaks and valleys can superimpose on each other perfectly (peak on peak, valley on valley) they can boost the signals, but if they are opposite – a peak above a valley and a valley beneath a peak – they begin to cancel each other out. Although there are no perfect counter peaks and valleys, this is how Wi-Fi radio waves cause interface.
The technology, as reported in this Fast Company link, is called MegaMIMO 2.0 and it has been developed by Hariharan Rahul who is a visiting researcher at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab and Dina Katabi who is the director of the MIT Wireless Centre.
When the radio waves cancel each other out, by overlapping it is termed as warping. So the MIT team hit upon the idea that if it can be anticipated in advance how the waves are going to overlap each other and warp the signals, the radio waves can be modified in advance.
But this would be easy if there were just one or a couple of devices communicating with each other. Sometimes, a place may have more than 20 access points and these access points might be transmitting radio waves to hundreds of devices and then these radio waves might be bouncing off those hundreds of devices to cause further havoc in the air to which we remain totally oblivious unless we experience a very bad Internet connection. In this case scenario anticipating how a particular access point or a particular device is going to transmit or affect a particular radio wave can turn out to be quite a resource-hungry job. Just the process of sending radio wave details to different access points so that they can make changes in the frequencies of the radio waves they are transmitting can end up hampering their ability to provide the actual Wi-Fi signals. But if it can be done, it will end up boosting everybody’s Wi-Fi connection. The technology is explained in detail in the above Fast Company link.