Thinking Tech

The real value in anti-WiFi paint

Posting in Design

This paint lets us mold wireless networks so they work where we want them to, and don't work where they might create interference.

Forget the snarky comments about "secure your WiFi with paint."

(Picture from CNET's Crave blog.)

The development of an aluminum oxide paint that resonates at high frequencies by researchers at the University of Tokyo has good, solid practical uses.

This paint lets us mold wireless networks so they work where we want them to, and don't work where they might create interference.

The obvious first beneficiaries are going to be hospitals.

Hospitals have been building-out sophisticated WiFi networks for a decade now. They handle voice as well as data traffic. Many sophisticated medical devices run on WiFi frequencies, or bands near them.

Now these high bandwidth applications can be protected. Just paint the outside of the radiology department with this new paint, at just $16 per kilogram, and the problem is solved. Those devices are now isolated from the rest of the building and have access to the whole frequency band.

That last is as important as the security angle. Isolating WiFi networks gives each network access to the whole frequency band, with minimal sharing. Integrating wired and wireless networking with this new paint means more throughput where you need it.

You can still have WiFi wherever you want it. Just add a wire with a wireless router. Secure that router's IP number and you can track whatever is happening on that bandwidth.

This means you can have consumer WiFi in the waiting rooms, while doctors can be using the same frequencies in other locations without fear of violating privacy.

Many businesses have long faced the choice between enabling delicate communications within the executive suite and keeping their business secure. Paint the outside of the suite, make it an island, and you can run the data. Instead of having a sea of WiFi, have a set of lakes and ponds you can control. Plus each pond gets access to the full frequency band.

Molding a network to a corporate campus, a university campus, or a hospital campus has been impossible until now. Now it's possible.

You're not really paying for the bits on your WiFi connection, and a logical separation between your own network and that connection should let you share it. You're certain to be held harmless if, without your knowledge, some hoser does something untoward with bandwidth on your router -- were that not the case coffee shops could not exist.

But molding a wireless network to the physical contours of the location where it's designed to run -- that's cool.

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Dana Blankenhorn

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dana Blankenhorn has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age's "NetMarketing" supplement and founded the Interactive Age Daily for CMP Media. He holds degrees from Rice and Northwestern universities. He is based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure