The Thing Called …… Wi-Fi !

WiFi has been in our lives for some years now. It solves a lot of problems that wired networks can't and can be very useful in many cases, enabling the promise of smooth, "free", unlimited access to the internet. Also, Wi-Fi has many prospects for further development in the future with "the Internet of Things" where everything becomes connected into one vast network. This could be a frightening as well as an exciting thought, and it would be worthwhile having a look at the basic elements of WiFi to understand how our future will be shaped by this technology.

A device with Wi-Fi enabled, such as a PC, smartphone, game console, or smart home devices can connect to the Internet within the range of a wireless network connected to the Internet, via an Access Point. The interconnection between one or more Access Points in a certain area is called a hotspot. Hotspots can cover a single room or up to many square feet covered by overlapping access points. The devices can network with each other and connect to the Internet, share files and interact wirelessly.

 

Routers and Wi-Fi access points are used most in homes to provide Internet access and networking to all devices that are connected wirelessly or by cables into them. Devices can also be connected in ad-hoc mode for client-to-client connections without using a router, but that could put a strain on the host device with an unnecessary drain on processing power, battery and non-primary work.

In addition to home and office use, Wi-Fi is publicly available also at Wi-Fi hotspots, provided either free of charge, or for a certain price. Sometimes free Wi-Fi is provided by organizations or authorities who wish to promote business in their area, such as coffee shops, bars and restaurants. 

Wireless range extenders (repeaters) can extend the range of a wireless network. If the repeaters are placed in an area "smartly", then the signal can be excellent. The devices that are connected through repeaters, however, may have an increased latency for each hop (the signal strength diminishes). Each device will get the signal from the device that gives better signal. A way round this is to use what are call powerline adapters where one node connects to the router and then is plugged into the nearest household socket and then the signal is passed through the electrical wiring system from one point to another point to be often broadcast as WiFi at the end point.


With wireless bridges we can connect two or more networks together and we can use two wireless bridges when a wired connection may be unavailable, such as a connection between two separate buildings. In this type of system, the signal hops from point to point, but if one of them breaks down in the chain, everything coming after that point receives no signal.

Mesh Wi-Fi systems work differently from single hotspots or bridges, consisting of a main router that connects directly to your modem, and a series of satellite modules, or nodes, placed around your home or business premises for full Wi-Fi coverage. The best way to imagine this is that it is like a net-blanket of signal, like a mosquito net, hence the term "mesh". All the connected nodes are all part of a single wireless network and share the same SSID and password, unlike traditional Wi-Fi routers, repeaters and combinations with powerline devices and have the built-in advantage of being able to roam around within the coverage area of the mesh WiFi network.

For many people, Wi-Fi has now become a necessity in everyday life. The first thing many people do when coming into new premises or a friend's home is ask for the WiFi password! This is due to the mobile cell-phone signal being intermittent, expensive and coming with a usage cap, or all three.

A decade ago, most people were unaware of this thing we call WiFi, but it is now a basic requirement for many mobile phone or laptop users', a true and uninterrupted access to a vast world of knowledge and possibilities. The enabler for the Internet of Things and the future is truly this thing we call WiFi and the best WiFi comes with a mesh.

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