What's the Buzz? Harnessing Static to Improve Wireless Signals

Jan 24, 2007

Can network interference be used to expand and enhance communication for wireless devices such as cell phones, computers and personal digital assistants?

Daniela Tuninetti, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, explained that this seemingly illogical concept is not all that strange if you take a closer look at what is going on. She has received a five-year, $400,000 National Science Foundation CAREER Award to establish a theoretical foundation for putting this idea into use through a concept called collaborative communications.

"Interference due to other communications devices is not just noise," Tuninetti said. "It's structure -- it's a communication going on between a pair of devices. I want to investigate if making the interference partly understandable at other transmitters can be used to do collaborative communications. I'm proposing that we think of interference as something potentially useful in a wireless channel, if appropriately exploited."

The idea is to pool communication resources to help mobile devices get an operating signal in places and times where the signal would normally cut out, or to enhance the bandwidth of a signal in a limited zone to provide clear voice communication or enhanced data flow. The technique may also improve communication when a mobile device's battery is getting weak.

With collaborative communication, Tuninetti says, what you are actually achieving is a "virtual antenna array" for your communications.

"So you can reach farther away and extend the communication range, or achieve the same communication quality at a reduced power."

Her research will focus on developing new coding and signaling techniques to improve the overall system capacity, as well as designing efficient and distributed multi-access and routing protocols to maximize the potential benefit of collaborative communication. She also hopes her research will reveal what limitations and tradeoffs may have to be considered.

"We need to understand that while this idea may sound cool, we need to understand whether we can make it practical. What will happen in big networks with potentially hundreds of users? Will the gains be scalable? Will the cost of coordination among transmitters remain acceptable?"

Tuninetti plans to teach a new multidisciplinary course that bridges ideas from information and networking theory in the design of collaborative communications networks. Part of her NSF grant will be used to hire a full-time graduate assistant to help with the research.

Tuninetti received her laurea and master's degrees in electrical engineering from the Politecnico di Torino in Italy and her Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the Ecole nationale supérieure des télécommunications de Paris in France.

NSF CAREER awards are the foundation's most prestigious honor for junior faculty. Established in 1995, the program helps top scientists and engineers who early in their professional careers develop simultaneously their contributions and commitment to research and education.

Source: University of Illinois at Chicago

Explore further: PsiKick's batteryless sensors poised for coming 'Internet of things'

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Wiring up carbon-based electronics

17 hours ago

Carbon-based nanostructures such as nanotubes, graphene sheets, and nanoribbons are unique building blocks showing versatile nanomechanical and nanoelectronic properties. These materials which are ordered ...

Invention loves collaboration at Milan show

Apr 14, 2014

Collaboration drove invention during Milan's annual International Furniture Show and collateral design week events, yielding the promise of homes without mobile phone chargers, and with more ergonomic seating, ...

Connected devices in smart homes have control issues

Apr 03, 2014

(Phys.org) —Smart homes are growing smarter. But it all depends on how you define "smart." Smart, as in connected to the Internet, or smart as in a well-planned architecture of intelligent gadgets that ...

Lights, action: Tech giants rush into original TV

Apr 09, 2014

The battle of the tech giants is now moving into television. Following the success of Netflix and a fresh push by Amazon in online video, the latest players looking to get into the gold rush may be Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL, ...

Recommended for you

Large streams of data warn cars, banks and oil drillers

Apr 16, 2014

Better warning systems that alert motorists to a collision, make banks aware of the risk of losses on bad customers, and tell oil companies about potential problems with new drilling. This is the aim of AMIDST, the EU project ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

White House updating online privacy policy

A new Obama administration privacy policy out Friday explains how the government will gather the user data of online visitors to WhiteHouse.gov, mobile apps and social media sites. It also clarifies that ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

Six Nepalese dead, six missing in Everest avalanche

At least six Nepalese climbing guides have been killed and six others are missing after an avalanche struck Mount Everest early Friday in one of the deadliest accidents on the world's highest peak, officials ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...