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GapSense: Helping Wireless Networks Survive With Energy Pulses

Wi-Fi is everywhere and it is powering our access to the world’s information. However, very few of us know what Wi-Fi actually is.


Wi-Fi is an energy field which transmits waves. The waves travel at a specific speed and have a certain height and distance between them. However, the distance between wireless waves is longer than micro waves and shorter than radio waves. Therefore, Wi-Fi offers a great transmission width, which is not cut off by other signals. However, the longer it has to travel, the more signal interruptions can be experienced.

Interruptions In Wi-Fi Signals

Wi-Fi shares bandwidth with other transmission systems such as Bluetooth and ZigBee systems. These signals run their operations in the same place and therefore face interference from each other as they cannot signal each other to align the utilization of the wave length. Additionally, sometimes different generations of wireless connectivity cannot co-ordinate the signals because of the utilization of wider and narrower radio wavelengths. If these problems arise, connectivity can have interruptions and therefore break down. This causes your network to go slow and difficult to work properly. However, this problem seems to be short lived, thanks to researchers at Michigan State University, who have invented a way for these three wireless networks to prevent each other from cramming into one another’s path thereby allowing for a better flow of connectivity.

How Wireless Connectivity Can Be Improved

Kang Shin, a Michigan computer science professor and Xinyu Zhang, an assistant professor at the Wisconsin University started their initiative to solve this problem in the year 2011. And finally, they have come up with a technology that can help all three technologies; Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and ZigBee, to perform well. Their invention, called GapSense, is a type of software that allows special energy pulses from Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and ZigBee to be utilized as traffic-control messages. According to Shin, this software can be implemented in equipment and access points if major vendors get behind this.

It is known to all that wireless local area networks are a data lifeline for several devices such as tablets, computers and phones in many homes, public places and offices. Whereas Bluetooth is a slower and less powered transmitter utilized for connecting peripherals, and ZigBee is an even slower powered technology utilized in devices for health care, home automation and many such purposes.

Every wireless protocol has a mechanism that can comply with the airtime. However, each technology has a different mechanism from each other. So, their language and understanding capability are not the same.

Each of the three technologies utilize CSMA or carrier sense multiple access – a mechanism that orders radio signals to put on hold transmissions if the wavelengths are being utilized. However, this system cannot always solve or prevent interference. Thus, CSMA does not always provide enough signals to devices. The key to this problem is that Wi-Fi steps over Bluetooth and ZigBee signals as it is stronger and faster as opposed to other networks. Take for instance, a Wi-Fi that uses CMSA cannot detect any danger of a collision with transmissions although a nearby technology (e.g. ZigBee) is about to start its transmission operations. This is because the ZigBee signal needs a long time to emerge from its inactive condition and charge up the transmission.

However, there appears to be a way to beef up ZigBee’s transmitting capacity. If the performance of this technology can be changed, it can keep up with its Wi-Fi neighbors. This can be done by transmitting and receiving small packets of data with long battery life and low power consumption.

Sometimes, wireless devices can  also fail in dividing resources and cannot send signals among themselves albeit successful Wi-Fi standard generations allow for greater range so as to get faster speeds. As a consequence, if 802.11b equipment within 10MHz of length wave tries to interpret to the rest of the wireless network that it has a packet to send, a 802.11n equipment within 40 MHz bandwidth cannot receive that transmission. This makes the 802.11 b equipment a “hidden terminal” resulting in collusion of the packets of these two devices.

How GapSense Works

In order to have all the above devices work together within the spectrum, GapSense was developed. This software utilizes a series of energy pulses that are divided by gaps. The gaps and pulses are utilised to distinguish various types of messages. The transmission can be sent at the beginning of the communication or between data transmissions.

If this software is used properly, network collisions can be reduced to a great length thereby enhancing the experience of utilizing Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and ZigBee. The best part of this technology is that there will be less broken connections and dropped calls. Not only will this improve your Wi-Fi experience, it will also update your firmware and Wi-Fi access points.

So, if you want to experience uninterrupted wireless connectivity, pray that the GapSense software will get the nod from major vendors.

Written By

Steven Scheck is the Principal of Inspire WiFi, the nationwide leader of multifamily wifi and healthcare wifi. When he isn't bringing Wi-Fi to the masses, he enjoys spending time and traveling with his wife and 4 kids and occasionally gets in a round of golf. He is also very involved in philanthropic causes in Miami and nationally.

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