Sadly, we do not yet live in the future. Wi-Fi isn’t pouring from every corner or from every device, and we still live in a world where walls can interrupt your Internet.
A new study by a team at Dartmouth College (DC), however, has come up with a rather novel – and incredibly inexpensive way – of boosting your Wi-Fi signal. Believe it or not, all you have to do is give it a little tin foil hat, which will make your router look like a robotic conspiracy theorist.
The research, which was presented at the ACM’s BuildSys event in Delft, the Netherlands, sounds a little silly at first. How could something as complex as Wi-Fi be improved with an everyday household object? It’s not like MacGyver applies in reality most of the time.
Nevertheless, according to a statement by Xia Zhou – an assistant professor of computer science at DC – this is all you need to make your router the toast of the virtual town.
“Through this single solution, we address a number of challenges that plague wireless users,” Zhou explains. “Not only do we strengthen wireless signals, we make those same signals more secure.”
So how on Earth does this scientific sorcery work?
Through earlier research, it was serendipitously discovered that placing an aluminum soft drink can behind a router improves its signal. It’s thought that the signals beaming out of the router are reflected more in one direction thanks to the can – and it was suspected that a specifically shaped piece of aluminum foil would improve on this.
They didn’t just guess what shape this foil should take, mind you. The team actually used some fairly complex computational algorithms to work out what the most optimized morphology would be.
To be fair, it’s not really a hat shape – it’s more of a wave-like silvery sheet worm, but that’s a lot less catchy. Either way, this unusual decoration – which costs about $35 for some reason – works with a range of off-the-shelf routers, including those most commonly used.
When employed, it focuses signals far more effectively than a mere soft drink can, and as such, Wi-Fi connections in the desired range of the router are reportedly a lot stronger.
The peer-reviewed study on this mechanism hasn’t been released yet, so it’s not clear just how much more potent this signal booster is compared to high-tech equivalents. It’s also not clear how the aluminum casing boosts the Wi-Fi security, but it’s probably something to do with the fact that the foil only boosts the signal in one direction. By not having plenty of other signals bouncing around the room, they’d be a lot harder to intercept by sneaky cyber thieves.