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Research Team’s “Wi-FM” Featured in the Chicago Tribune, BBC, and NPR

New technique uses FM radio to prevent slow Internet performance

Nothing derails a night of binge watching your favorite show on Netflix or Hulu faster than slow Internet performance. 

FAleksandar Kuzmanovicortunately, Northwestern Engineering’s Aleksandar Kuzmanovic and his research team have developed a solution that could lead to consistently fast Internet speeds using the help of a cheap and already existing medium: FM radio. 

Featured in the Chicago Tribune, the BBC, and NPR, the team’s technique uses a software algorithm in conjunction with surrounding FM radio signals to synchronize the activity of nearby wireless networks. Dubbed “Wi-FM,” the system allows networks to communicate with one another and release data in fast, alternating 20 millisecond periods. The coordination combats against the logjam of competing signals that so often derail wireless Internet speeds, particularly in high-density areas. 

Kuzmanovic, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, says the potential for widespread adoption of Wi-FM is possible because many technological devices come with FM chips already built in—users would simply need to install a software patch to run the system. He hopes to work with hardware developers to better integrate Wi-FM into technology like smartphones and wireless routers.  

“For this to become widely used, it really has to go back to Google, Apple, and router manufacturers,” Kuzmanovic said. “They have the power to put this in the real world.”

Read the coverage in the Chicago Tribune, BBC, and NPR.