Start-up company claims improved antenna technology for wireless networks

Video54 Technologies, a Mountain View, CA start-up company, has developed antenna technology that can steer signals around obstacles, improving reliability in wireless home networks.

The company’s BeamFlex technology was demonstrated last week at CES. It announced that Netgear, a maker of home networking gear, would be the first company to integrate the BeamFlex antenna into a new line of wireless-access products. Netgear is branding the products under the name RangeMax.

The technology uses software to adjust signal paths of wireless devices to steer them around obstacles. The product is composed of antenna arrays that generate hundreds of unique beam patterns. The software continuously learns the environment and reconfigures the antenna to adapt to changing radio frequency, network and user conditions.

By increasing a wireless network’s range, the technology also improves reliability. Today’s wireless networks offer spotty connectivity at best, which is bad for services like voice and video, which require a consistent signal.

For most data applications, a temporary delay in transmission is bearable and sometimes unnoticeable. But the slightest disturbance — a cat running through the living room for example —could cause enough interference to make a video unwatchable.

Video54 isn’t the only company trying to solve the wireless reliability problem. Others are taking a different approach. Chipmaker Airgo has designed new silicon that uses MIMO — multiple-in, multiple-out — technology, which also improves reliability and promises to increase performance.

The technology, which has not yet been standardized, is gaining momentum. Last week, Linksys announced that it is incorporating the technology in its new wireless routers and adapter cards. Belkin, which also makes Wi-Fi gear, announced last summer that it would use the Airgo MIMO technology in some of its products.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers is currently working on a new standard called 802.11n that could include Airgo’s technology.

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