Innovation That Matters

Better wifi through local FM radio stations

Work & Lifestyle

Wi-FM is a system which uses frequency modulation — FM radio — to prevent competing wifi signals from canceling each other out.

Slow and fluctuating wifi signal may seem like a mystery, but there is actually a very logical explanation: when two conflicting networks are available in the same space, they interfere with each other. This causes particular problems in densely populated urban buildings where the neighbor upstairs is watching Netflix while someone downstairs attempts to browse the net. Hoping to solve this problem, a group of PhD students at Northwestern University have found a way to mitigate the competing networks using frequency modulation (FM radio) — the system is called Wi-FM.

The research was lead by Aleksandar Kuzmanovic at McCormick School of Engineering. Wi-FM works by enabling nearby but unconnected wireless signals to talk to each other through ambient FM signals. Wi-FM is able to monitor the area and identify the usage patterns of other networks, sending information through existing FM radio stations. Then, it can send data when the network is “quietest” — i.e. when fewer other networks are sending data.

Wi-FM has great potential because most smart devices are already equipped with an FM chip inside. Could a partnership lead to this technology being adopted as standard?



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