Radios can receive or transmit a signal. Not only is the communication one-way, the signals that are transmitted are noisy. It's like shouting in a crowded room and having no way of knowing if the person in the middle can hear you. But researchers at Stanford University have discovered that it's possible for a radio to do both.
After testing two radios designed for the two-way communication, the researchers measured how well the radios communicated. Philip Levis is pleased with the results so far. Levis is a computer science and electrical engineering professor at Stanford, and he thinks his full-duplex wireless device could really help wireless communication networks.
The radio device could help speed up Wi-Fi connections, by making the transmission of data more efficient through the access point. Today, some messages are transmitted, but can end up colliding. When this happens, the network is slower. This also happens in air traffic control, when two planes try to talk to the control tower. Sometimes, the control tower might miss both of the signals.
The radio device took about two weeks to conceptualize and two months to build. "I am amazed no one thought of it before," Levis.
Levis' students, Jung Il Choi, Mayank Jain and Kannan Srinivasan, thought of the idea. The researchers showed off the prototype at a mobile phone conference, MobiCom 2010, where even mobile phone carriers showed interest.
I wonder if AT&T was.
However, it's research, Levis said, keeping the work grounded. But he does have a few predictions about where we will see this communication device. Even if most wireless technologies don't end up adopting this approach, it might be practical in a couple of places such as city-wide hot spots. People are already starting to build more robust versions of the radio and they are finding out when it's effective and when it's not.
"Radio is only going to be more important; it's the only way to communicate data without a wire. The only option is to wire everything...and I don't think that's going to happen. We love our mobile phones too much," Levis said.
By making the radio capable of receiving and transmitting signals at the simultaneously, you can instantly double the Wi-Fi speeds. A radio designed to do both might solve a number of challenges in wireless networking.