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Smart wallpaper that protects your Wi-Fi

Smart wallpaper that protects your Wi-Fi

Posting in Cities

Researchers have developed a 'Wi-Fi' wallpaper that blocks its signals -- useful for your office or conference?

Digital security is currently a hot topic in the press. It's advised to secure your computer with necessary security patches and updates, install a firewall, and to use strong passwords and keep locks in place for mobile devices.

Wi-Fi technology is no exception. For the mainstream consumer market, protecting your Wi-Fi may not only save you an unexpected bill due to free Internet seekers if you're on a capped contract, but will prevent unknown freeloaders from accessing the network entirely and save you from a number of privacy and security issues.

Protecting the network through a strong password (and that means no qwerty12345 or password1, please) is currently the easiest and most effective method to keep household networks secure. But what if your wallpaper could do it for you?

Researchers at the French Grenoble Institut Polytechnique and the Centre Technique du Papier have developed such 'smart paper', and a Finnish materials company called Ahlstrom plans to manufacture a version of the paper that can be used to not only decorate homes and offices, but block Wi-Fi signals.

The wallpaper, currently in its prototype stage, is designed to trap and isolate Wi-Fi signals without interfering with radio signals or mobile phones. Using conductive ink that contains silver crystals, frequencies between the 2.45 and 5.5 GHz range become blocked -- preventing signals from entering locations beyond the paper.

Pierre Lemaitre-Auger, one of the researchers and developers of the paper said*:

"A wireless network is provided with protection that can be cracked by the crafty. If you put wallpaper on the walls around an office or apartment, your Wi-Fi works well but it can not be hacked."

The paper can be applied like normal wallpaper, and be placed on material including concrete and plaster. It may not be an interesting prospect for the general public -- when strong network passwords do just fine -- but for companies or areas that are sensitive to Wi-Fi interference, it may be worth the investment to redecorate.

It could be used in conference rooms, theaters and hospitals, or perhaps be installed in hotels to prevent guests from trying to access free Wi-Fi sources instead of paying for the service.

According to L'Informatcien, the researchers claim the price of the wallpaper would be "equivalent to a traditional mid-range wallpaper", and should be available commercially in 2013.

*Human translation from French.

Image credit: Grenoble Institut Polytechnique

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Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure