This DIY ‘hack’ will make your Wi-Fi stronger – and it genuinely works

January 29, 2018
I think we can all agree that the very worst thing in the entire world – the very, very worst – is not having full and immediate access to the internet at all times. The three minutes between station Wi-Fi when you’re on the Tube: an actual, living hell.  It’s even more annoying when this happens in your own home – when your crappy little router refuses to work properly and you’re unable to stream 18 episodes of Catfish in a row in bed.

If this sounds familiar, you have a few options: moving your bed directly into the living room, making it unliveable for the rest of your housemates; you could buy one of those Wi-Fi extender things; OR, you could put a little tinfoil hat on your router, apparently?

According to a new study from Columbia and Dartmouth universities, 3D printing a reflector (or making one from cardboard) and wrapping it in foil can improve the signal of your router AND strengthen its security by directing the signals towards certain areas and away from others.

An example of a Wi-Fi reflector

“Through this single solution, we address a number of challenges that plague wireless users,” explained Xia Zhou, who worked on the study. “Not only do we strengthen wireless signals, we make those same signals more secure.”

The reflectors aren’t one size fits all – using a simple algorithm, the team say that they can find the “best shape” for your home using info on your flat’s layout and access points, as well as the area you want to strengthen the signal (i.e. your bed).

If you don’t have a 3D printer, because why would you, you could also do the same with cardboard, although researchers do note that the cardboard may “bend out of shape”.

Either way, the reflectors are a big money saver. “With a simple investment of about $35 and specifying coverage requirements, a wireless reflector can be custom-built to outperform antennae that cost thousands of dollars,” the team says.

Other research from the same team has also found that putting a can behind your router can strengthen the signal, so if you can’t be bothered to shell out on a 3D printed reflector you can always just shove a can of coke there. Science.

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