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Protecting the Internet of Things

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Can the government protect Internet of Things devices?

Forbes describes the Internet of Things (IoT) as “the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cell phones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of. This also applies to components of machines, for example, a jet engine of an airplane or the drill of an oil rig.”

This concept plays a big part in the future of technology and the devices we use. The biggest concern surrounding the topic of the IoT is security. How do we protect these internet-connected devices from threats and hackers? As the components of important machines are left vulnerable, this issue becomes more and more prevalent.

Now, the government is getting involved. A new Senate bill seeks to improve the security of government devices. Many IoT devices, like cameras, computers, and more are vulnerable to attack. Recent attacks have even allowed hackers access to popular services. As more IoT devices are attacked, the government wants to make sure that they meet basic standards of security.

Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act

Several senators, including Mark Warner, Cory Gardner, Ron Wyden, and Steve Daines, introduced the Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act. The new IoT Cybersecurity Improvement Act wants to add better security to devices purchased by the U.S. government. It mandates that devices support patches and password changes, which would help decrease their vulnerability. The senators also want government devices free of known exploits. These standards allow government officials to keep their devices updated and prevent future attacks.

“While I’m tremendously excited about the innovation and productivity that Internet-of-Things devices will unleash, I have long been concerned that too many Internet-connected devices are being sold without appropriate safeguards and protections in place,” said Sen. Warner. “This legislation would establish thorough, yet flexible, guidelines for Federal Government procurements of connected devices. My hope is that this legislation will remedy the obvious market failure that has occurred and encourage device manufacturers to compete on the security of their products.”

What This Bill Could Mean for IoT Devices

Updating the security of these devices could mean a lot for the safety of government information and services. Sen. Gardner notes that “The Internet of Things (IoT) landscape continues to expand, with most experts expecting tens of billions of devices operating on our networks within the next several years.” The more IoT devices that we have available, the more opportunities hackers have to access or interfere with valuable information and services.

Hopefully, the bill will affect all IoT devices, not just the ones used by the government. Manufacturers could raise the standards of their security overall to gain government contracts. If it is passed, only researchers, who are meant to test security exploits, will be exempt from purchasing devices that don’t meet the new standards of security. If you wish to learn more about the Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act, you can find out here.

Should You Buy Google’s New WiFi Router?

An image of a WiFi router's signal strength.

Will you be buying Google’s WiFi router?

Google is looking extend the reach of your modem with their new WiFi router. Chances are, your house could use something like this. You probably have at least one room that’s a total dead zone. And you’ll wind up avoiding it all day or lifting up your laptop awkwardly to get a better connection.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Google’s WiFi router intends to get rid of those pesky dead zones. They want you to get the most out of your modem. Because you deserve to have the exact internet you paid good money for.

So, how well does it perform? Is it better than the other routers currently out there? What about the price? We’re going to discuss all of that out now. Here’s our review of the new Google WiFi router.

Product Review: Google’s WiFi Router

Setting up the router is pretty simple. All you have to do is download the Google WiFi app on your phone. After that, just follow a few easy instructions and you’re connected.

The reach of Google’s router ranges from 500-1500 square feet. The reach depends on which speed you prefer. If you choose the 2.4 GHz speed, it’ll be longer. But if you want the faster 5 GHz option, your reach will not be as far.

For people that live in a larger home or apartment, one router might not be enough. That’s why Google came up with the Network Assist feature for multiple router homes. So, when you’re moving around the house, Network Assist will immediately connect your device to the one with the fastest connection. This is done seamlessly, so you won’t experience a dropped call or failed download when going from room to room.

For one router, the price is at $129. And buying three in a bundle costs $300 dollars. Compared to other routers with an equal reach that the three routers combined give you, it’s a good deal.

Google is looking to make your WiFi reach further with their new router. And no matter the size of your house, it has you covered. At a fair price for its quality, this product would make a good purchase for anyone.

Looking Ahead to 5G Mobile Service

Standardization of mobile Internet service is an important part of the development of the 5G mobile Internet framework. For example, the industry is focusing on goals such as significant improvements in speed during peak data times, as well as resolving latency issues. But these are not the only factors that mobile engineers need to think about.

The complication for 5G is the diversity of mobile needs. Every industry from transportation to health to automotive use mobile Internet. That’s why 5G has taken so long to develop. As the “Internet of Things” continues to expand, we need more cloud storage and more virtualization than ever before. These are the types of technology that provide adaptability. 5G engineers are challenged with bringing it all together, and integrating everything the Internet can do for us.

5G is about so much more than just making a video load faster on your iPhone. The whole architecture is new. In fact, 5G requires short-range frequencies which means more cell sites. But don’t think that pushes things too far into the future. At least eight companies are already testing out 5G services, including Verizon and AT&T.

What Does 5G Mean for the Future of Wi-Fi?

Don’t worry about Wi-Fi losing its significance. As both mediums of wireless Internet progress, they will continue to coexist. 5G is a vital stage in the evolution of wireless because the way we use the Internet has outgrown the limitations of the network that has been in place for the past decade. 5G needs to be a more scalable solution rather than the next patch that ekes a little more speed out of the old architecture.

In the meantime, you can expect the US to see how the 5G rollout goes in other countries, so some of the bugs will get worked out before we see it here. While that may delay the future of mobile for a brief time, we hope it translates into the exciting new service we have all been wishing for each time the infrastructure upgrades. Asia will be taking the reins, with South Korea hoping to have their 5G network in place in time for their hosting of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Increasing the Range of Bluetooth Technology

Bluetooth has become a universal means of doing everything, from speaking on a hands-free headset to transferring images from one device to another. The only thing that severely limits Bluetooth technology is range. Bluetooth is fixed to a 30-foot range for devices that want to connect to one another. If your home is large enough, you may not have been able to stream music from your phone to a Bluetooth speaker unless you had one in every room—until now.

Cassia Produces a Bluetooth “Booster”

One of the most exciting devices showcased at CES was a Bluetooth hub developed by Cassia. The specs on this device make the prospect of a Bluetooth-enabled home seem like an easy task. With a range of 1,000 feet, this device can Bluetooth-enable an entire building full of devices. Okay, so it maxes out at 22 devices, but that’s a lot for any Bluetooth tech on the market today.

How Does It Work?

From an Android or iOS device, you download an app that manages the hub. This allows one user to control which 22 devices are allowed to connect to the hub. Not only is the range of the hub 1,000 feet, but it can also make its way through up to three standard walls inside a home.

And if the user who controls the hub isn’t home, he or she can still manage it if the hub is on the home’s Wi-Fi. That’s right, this Bluetooth hub can be controlled via the Internet.

Aesthetically Pleasing and Technologically Advanced

You won’t mind having the hub on your shelf either. Whether you like modern minimalist style or have more of a classic décor, the hub has a timeless design. It is small and lightweight (less than 5 inches tall and about a pound and a half).  Other than the barely noticeable white-on-white Cassia logo, it resembles an LED pillar candle. Place it on a desk, bookshelf, or right on the floor.

At $99, this tech device is a steal. That should leave you with enough money to shop the hub’s accessories, which include a Bluetooth speaker and LED lighting.

Why Be On Guard When Using Public Wi-Fi

Whether your favorite hotspot is at McDonalds, Starbucks, or your local library, there are some things that you should know about before you hop on public Wi-Fi and surf the web like it’s business as usual. If you are going to log into an account, use a credit card, or shop while on a public network, here are a few things you should think about concerning Wi-Fi security.

  1. Hackers Love Public Wi-Fi

Why take the chance of hacking a secure network when you can sit in the corner with your coffee and laptop and steal tons of passwords, credit card numbers, and bank accounts from an open network? Hackers are opportunists. Never assume you’re on a public network alone, even if you don’t see anyone. Someone could just as easily be in the parking lot in a car.

  1. Check Your Credentials

Does the Internet at your favorite coffee shop require a password? Either way, you will want to know the SSID. Make sure you are logging onto the right network. A sly scam that hackers pull off regularly is creating an SSID that seems legit. For example, “Free Airport WiFi.” You connect, thinking that the airport has gotten generous. Now you are on the hacker’s Wi-Fi network, and every keystroke you make is being logged.

  1. Use a VPN

If you need to shop, bank, or do anything with your credit cards on a public Wi-Fi network, we strongly recommend using a VPN, or virtual private network. Most have a monthly or annual fee.  A VPN allows you to encrypt your data while you are using public Wi-Fi. Remember, most hackers are opportunists. Few will try to deal with your extra line of defense while there are easier targets around. Plus, a VPN gives you plenty of other benefits too.

In short, we’re not saying that public Wi-Fi is bad in any way. You just need to use caution due to unsavory individuals who take advantage of the lax Wi-Fi security free public networks employ.

Will Lasers Be the Solution to Our Broadband Concerns?

One of our broadband concerns is that its capacity is nearly at full capacity. The world is processing more and more data all the time and more activity than ever is taking place on the Internet. Cloud computing has introduced a world where data is no longer stored locally, but it still needs to be accessed instantly at any given time. According to one group of experts, the Internet will need to be rationed within the decade if things continue their present course. Plus, half a billion people are poised to access the Internet for the first time over the next couple of years.

The Race for an Answer

Every tech company is searching for the ultimate answer. Take Google’s approach with Project Loon. Using balloons that float about twice as high as aircraft fly, Google is trying to stretch coverage to reach even the remotest areas. On the other hand, Microsoft is taking the underwater approach by placing cables under the sea to shore up their cloud-based systems.

How Lasers May Provide the Solution

Researchers are looking into using lasers, particularly infrared lasers, to increase bandwidth and speed by as much as 200%. The reason they feel the increase will be so dramatic is the fact that almost nothing uses the terahertz frequency.

Besides just university researchers, private companies are doing their own research. One tech periodical noted that three of the nation’s largest Internet service providers are experimenting with new technologies that promise ultra-high bandwidth.

The technology has already been field tested in a remote part of Nigeria to see if spotty connectivity could be bolstered using the new tech. Testing also has occurred in Mexico. Both ventures were successful and showed promise that lasers will soon be providing better bandwidth and download speeds for all.

In fact, one researcher, who started studying lasers over 20 years ago, postulated that terahertz frequencies could provide 20 times faster communication speeds than gigahertz technology. If this works, lasers would clearly answer some of our broadband concerns.


Give Your Older Printer WiFi Capabilities

Just about every modern printer comes equipped with WiFi. After all, no one wants to have to plug in to print anymore. Plus, what are all of those tablets and smartphones to do with no way to connect to a printer. That has led to the age of WiFi printers. So do you have to upgrade your printer at the home or office if it doesn’t have WiFi capabilities? Not necessarily. ImageTech has released a couple of devices to turn any printer into one that can handle mobile devices.

The devices are named printUSB and printWiFi. PrintUSB is more suitable for the home setting. It only allows one device to be connected to the printer at a time. Print USB isn’t wireless. It’s just a means for connecting mobile devices that wouldn’t normally have a place to plug in a printer. It is basically a USB hub that lets you attach the mobile device and a printer.

The wireless option, which is much better for an office setting, is called printUSB. An app named printView will let you connect mobile devices to a printer using a wireless connection. Of course, this is also good for a person who needs to work a lot on the go. These are portable devices, and you can quickly attach them to any printer, even one that you don’t have the software for. The only real issue is whether or not someone minds if you reach behind their printer to plug in your device.

We’re talking mere inches for each of these devices that will give your older printer WiFi capabilities, so there is no problem slipping them into the slimmest of laptop cases. Of course, if your home or office printer is old enough to not have a wireless setting, it’s probably time to upgrade anyway, but you can’t expect everyone on the planet to keep up-to-date. PrintUSB and printWiFi may really save you when you need to print something somewhere that has barely made it into the 21st century.

Getting the Most Life from Your Laptop or PC

Technology is not cheap and that means you want your gadgets to last for a long time. Here are a few tips to help you get the most life from your laptop or PC. Nothing on this list is complicated, but they are simple things that we sometimes forget. In the long run, they can save you a lot of money.

First of all, get a can of compressed air. They are specially made for cleaning out electronics, and can help you keep everything running smoothly. Blow off the keyboard regularly to keep buildup from forming under the keys. The fan vents need attention too. Naturally, you do not want to blow the dust into your computer, so if possible, it is always better to remove the fan for cleaning, but using the can of air at an angle works in a pinch.

Do not skimp on your surge protector. This is an item that usually goes by the golden rule of purchases: “You get what you pay for.” You can pick up an $9 protector on Amazon instead of getting a $30 one, and that will work for most applications, but if you buy a cheap surge protector, you may as well plug your computer directly into the wall.

Only use your laptop when you have a hard surface to place it on during operation. Soft surfaces tend to block the vent, which causes heat to build up quickly. If you are used to sitting with a pillow on your lap and putting your laptop on that, then you probably are used to buying a new laptop every year or two. If you really use your laptop a lot, consider getting a cooling station to place it on during use.

Finally, follow good common sense with your computer’s use such as regularly running reliable anti-malware software and not eating or drinking near your computer. By following these basic guidelines, your computer should become obsolete long before it quits on you.


Electricity Free Smart Devices

Electricity Free Smart Devices: It May Be Sooner Than We Think

Engineers are working on a way to use radio frequencies instead of electricity to power wireless connectivity. The implications of electricity free smart devices are many:

• Battery free smart devices

• Energy conservation

• Easy to use/wear monitoring devices

A whole new world may not be that far away. Cheap power and ease of connectivity seem to be the only things that have kept various smart devices from becoming mainstream. After all, how many devices can we charge every night? It can be tedious but it is worse if we forget. Furthermore, how many locations just don’t have a power source nearby when we need to recharge one of these devices?

The elegance of charging by radio frequencies lies in how engineers are intending to provide the power to these battery-free devices. The plan is to make use of a resource that already exists and is ubiquitous. Various radio frequencies, wireless signals, and television signals are everywhere. The idea is to harness this power, and provide this to the battery-free devices.

The main issue is that these signals don’t provide enough power on their own. They only give off about a third of the power that is needed by many wearable smart devices and other Wi-Fi devices. How do they intend to overcome this problem? Currently, the answer is to use antennas to boost the signal. The antennas are small enough to fit inside a clothing tag, are lightweight, and don’t require charging or replacing like a battery.

The idea has been tested and the battery-free device was able to transmit data (albeit slowly) for several feet. The next step is to increase speeds and transmission ranges. Imagine being able to read email without having to pick up your phone because one of your electricity free smart devices, for example a smart watch, transfers the email automatically. Imagine having the stats from your morning run waiting in a spreadsheet when you get home, along with all the other runs from this month. These are just a couple of small examples of what battery free Wi-Fi could mean.

Internet Speed Limits

Internet Speed Limits: Warp Drive is Coming

Researchers from three major US universities may have finally made the breakthrough that will allow for a 1000 percent increase in Internet speed limits and capabilities. It’s all about the network and how efficiently the various nodes do their job. Is this the future of wireless networking? Will 5G make use of this technology? Is it the future of satellite communication?

The backbone of our modern Internet is now 40 years old. That is astounding, since we often see technology change on an annual basis. The limits of the current Internet protocol suite, however, are finally becoming an issue. This is why the race is on to find the next level of Internet speeds.

Packet loss has always been an issue with the Internet. When a packet gets misplaced for any reason, the interpretation is always that the line is busy. As a result, the speed at which packets pass is automatically cut in half. It is done this way to free up some of the congestion. Thus, connectivity speeds are often slowed. It’s an extremely inefficient way to accomplish something we now expect to occur instantaneously.

To speed things up, the idea is to give each node the ability to pass along the packets more efficiently. If a node needs to send a packet along a different route or re-encodes it, each node will have that ability. This is a much more elegant solution to the existing system, which simply passes packets along to whichever node is the next predetermined stopping point.

The research being done tested this more efficient means of packet passing, and the astonishing results were sometimes 10 times faster than current speeds. This not only changes Internet speed limits, it is also a boon to data security. The packets no longer follow a predetermined path, thus making it far more difficult to intercept them in the right order. Therefore, this process can very well be the next step in both Internet speed and security.

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