This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project aims to develop commercially viable electrically reconfigurable antennas for wireless Local Area Networks (LAN). Reconfigurable antennas coupled with cognitive radios and Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) systems can significantly improve the performance of next generation wireless communication by adaptively establishing the strongest possible wireless link for transmission. The intellectual merit of this research involves using a wide array of preliminary work, prototypes, and intellectual property to transition reconfigurable antenna technology to practical wireless LAN products by i) developing compact reconfigurable antennas to be integrated into wireless LAN access point, ii) demonstrating the performance improvement achievable with these reconfigurable antennas in legacy wireless LAN access points, and iii) quantifying the potential performance increase in future wireless LAN access points, with protocol stacks that are designed to leverage reconfigurable antenna capabilities.
The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is to provide to the market of wireless devices a novel technology capable of improving the wireless connectivity while diminishing the overall power consumption. The reconfigurable antenna technology will enable the development of competitive consumer products and innovative applications, including products for wireless personal, local and metro area networks; laptop, cellphone, and smartphone data communications; gaming and other home networked devices. Performance driven market like i) home and enterprise networking, ii) wireless high definition audio/video transmission, and iii) 3G data offloading will strongly benefit from this technology. Beyond the commercial impact of electrically reconfigurable antennas, another broader impact component is to foster technical innovation and design among undergraduate cooperative education students. VariWaves through its strong cooperation with Drexel University will seek to place students in stimulating work environments where they will be exposed to real-world applications of their interdisciplinary education.
Electrically recon?gurable antennas, which are capable of dynamically changing their radiation characteristics, have the potential to revolutionize wireless communications systems. To develop our recon?gurable antennas, we have leveraged recent advances in metamaterial antenna techniques. Using a wide array of preliminary work, prototypes, and intellectual property originally developed at Drexel University, this proposal transitioned recon?gurable antenna technology to practical wireless LAN products. In our work during SBIR Phase I we have performed the following tasks: Designed and built compact form factor recon?gurable antennas that operate in the band of commercial Wi-Fi radios (2.4 and 5 GHz). Developed a con?guration selection algorithm that aims to select an optimum con?guration to be used in a given link, without having to evaluate the performance of all available con?gurations. Integrated our new antennas and our selection algorithm in a Commercial-Off-the-Self (COTS) Access Point (AP), measured its performance in realistic scenarios, and benchmarked performance to that of an identical AP that was equipped with conventional antennas. The evaluation of our system compared to conventional technology has revealed the following advantages of our approach: Increased Throughput: Our system showed throughput increases of up to 5x, especially in "hard to reach" locations Extended Coverage: Our system has been able to provide throughput of up to 15 Mbps in locations where the standard antenna system was unable to connect to the client. Decreased Throughput Variability wrt Orientation: While the system equipped with conventional antennas exhibited throughput variations with respect to orientation of client and AP of up to 85% compared to the mean, while VariWaves adaptive antenna system never exceeded 15%. In all locations tested, variability of VariWaves system was considerably less than the variability of the conventional system.