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Taming the HetNet with Wi-Fi traffic cops

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Interference and clogs over wireless networks — the result of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth devices, and even baby monitors competing for bandwidth — could be reduced with software that acts like a wireless traffic light.

GapSense, developed by University of Michigan computer scientists, allows heterogeneous devices to talk to each other, allowing them to coordinate the start and stop of their packets and make them wait their turn to use the airwaves. UM hopes to develop the technology into a commercial product.

CTIA, the wireless industry trade group, has estimated there are more than 320 million wireless-enabled devices in the U.S. With protocols using different spectrum widths and placing varying levels of demand on the network, data collisions that cause interference between these devices are bound to happen. Using a coordinated sequence of pauses and pulses, GapSense reduces these collisions.

In one test, interference between ZigBee (a protocol that can be used e.g. for automating home lighting and temperature control) and Wi-Fi was reduced by 88 percent. Because these devices operate at different clock speeds, GapSense’s modulation of data transfer can also lower power consumption by 44 percent for Wi-Fi devices, according to the researchers.