Kyle Jamieson: Wi-Fi Goes to Town

Thursday, Nov 8, 2018

Your commute no longer has to mean time away from the internet. With self-driving cars on the horizon and more people moving to urban centers where they commute by light rail and subway, the demand for internet access from moving vehicles is continually increasing.

To meet this demand, Kyle Jamieson and his team in the Department of Computer Science have developed Wi-Fi Goes to Town, a roadside hotspot network that enables commuters to stream video, hold teleconferences and surf the web. The use of Wi-Fi rather than cellular networks allows companies and other entities, such as light-rail operators, to provide high-speed internet access to mobile users.

The key to the technology is the miniaturization of the geographic areas, or “cells,” to which routers deliver data. Smaller cells allow these routers, known as access points, to provide higher-fidelity data. In this new technology, each cell is only about one meter in diameter.

The challenge is that smaller cells require more frequent handing over of the user from one cell to the next. This hand-off works best when access points can rapidly detect other nearby access points and prepare to transfer, making a new connection before breaking the old one. However, current solutions for doing this are too slow to make them worthwhile for small cells.

Wi-Fi Goes to Town enables this rapid handoff by taking advantage of two factors: First, Wi-Fi routers have become inexpensive, so it is cost-feasible to use lots of them, and second, the access points can extract readings from mobile devices to track their locations within about four inches. The researchers have demonstrated a prototype on a street in Princeton.

“The technology is a way of orchestrating the hundreds of small cells to cooperate and provide data to you while you are on the move," Jamieson said.

“This allows the network to simultaneously serve greater numbers of users who can stream movies or have video teleconferencing calls — things you cannot do today because the network is not fast or reliable enough.”

-Kyle Jamieson, Associate Professor of Computer Science

Team members: Longfei Shangguan, postdoctoral research associate, and Zhenyu Song, graduate student
Development status: Patent protection is pending. Princeton is seeking outside interest for further development of this technology.
Funding: Princeton University’s IP Accelerator Fund, the National Science Foundation, Google
Contact: John Ritter, Director of Technology Licensing, jritter@princeton.edu or 609-258-1570