MIT unlocks the secret to safer, tighter, stronger Wi-Fi


MIT researchers are working on a new wireless system that allows Wi-Fi signals to pinpoint a user's location, which could unlock Wi-Fi geo-fencing capabilities and even lead to safer drones.

Under the new wireless project, dubbed Chronos, a team of researchers from the university's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have presented a new system where Wi-Fi signals locate a user rather than a user's device attempting to find an open network to connect to.

The system can locate users to within "tens of centimeters" by determining the time and distance (or "time of flight") it takes for the Wi-Fi signal to reach a person's device.

Using this technology, you could essentially create a geo-fenced Wi-Fi network for your home or office that anyone outside the pre-determined area wouldn't be able to access, meaning you wouldn't necessarily need a password to protect your network from internet-leeching neighbors.

Homes and drones

In an experiment, the team tracked users in a two-bedroom apartment accurately 94% of the time, while in another experiment, their success rate for determining if a person was inside a store or out on the sidewalk was 97%.

The research team sees Chronos having applications in smart homes, too.

"Imagine having a system like this at home that can continuously adapt the heating and cooling depending on [the] number of people in the home and where they are," said Professor Dina Katabi, the lead on the project.

It can also, apparently, be used to make drones safer. For example, a drone could find users carrying a Wi-Fi capable device (like the ever-ubiquitous smartphone) and maintain a safe distance rather than crashing into them.

MIT says Chronos is 20 times more accurate than existing systems. It's a bummer, then, that due to the way the system cycles through Wi-Fi bands, it can't currently be used with existing routers.

You can check out the tech in action in the video below.