Happy Australia Day!
Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, today is a day to celebrate what makes this country great. I’ll certainly be enjoying it with some snags and a game of backyard cricket.
So, given the significance of the date I figured we’d get into a bit of a patriotic mood. With our trademark tech slant, of course.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that I can be a bit critical about our national tech legacy. Sometimes it seems like we’re going backwards when it comes to new technology. The state of the NBN still gets me bristling to this day.
But while I have my gripes, I have to admit we’re pretty damn lucky. Compared to most of the world, we’re pretty cutting edge.
That’s why I have such lofty expectations. We’ve invented and built some incredible tech in the past. And one invention in particular has helped transform all of our lives.
I’m talking about Wi-Fi.
Yes, if you didn’t already know, Australia was responsible for ‘inventing’ Wi-Fi.
Well, truth be told we didn’t really invent the whole technology, instead we solved the biggest roadblock. And it wasn’t called Wi-Fi either; the real invention was the wireless LAN (local area network). Technically, Wi-Fi doesn’t mean anything, it’s just a brand.
Having said all that, in my totally unbiased view, we clearly deserve the credit for inventing Wi-Fi. That’s the history that I’m sticking to anyway.
So, what exactly did we do that made Wi-Fi possible? Well a bunch of CSIRO scientists essentially tamed radio waves, a task that was proving quite challenging back in the 1990s…
Taming the waves
Dr John O’Sullivan is the chief mind behind our Wi-Fi breakthrough. And like many inventions, his discovery was totally accidental.
O’Sullivan and his team were actually trying to build a device that used radio waves to reconstruct exploding black holes. In doing so, he managed to find a way to split radio waves and reconstruct them back again.
They didn’t manage to succeed with their black hole problem, but they did see a use for their result. With the help of some complex mathematics they could solve ‘reverberation’.
To simplify, radio waves don’t work that well in a small space, like a room. They reverberate or bounce off of almost anything and everything, distorting the signal.
O’Sullivan and his team fixed this by making the waves smaller and more fragmented. As the CSIRO describes it:
‘Their solution involved replacing a large single wave with lots of smaller waves sent in parallel. These smaller waves were less prone to interference, and because the signal was duplicated many times, there was a much greater chance that the waves made it to their intended destination. The change was similar to replacing a wide single lane road with a multi-lane highway.’
It sounds simple in layman’s terms, but the mathematics behind it all is very dense. But thanks to their genius, we now get to enjoy the wonders of the internet without a cord.
By 1997 the first iteration of Wi-Fi was born: the 802.11 protocol. It wasn’t an immediate success, this first attempt was noticeably flawed.
Two years later though, in 1999, 802.11b rolled around. An updated protocol, and this version was far more popular. And with that, the Wi-Fi Alliance and Wi-Fi brand was created.
That’s why this year is a little extra special. It’s the 30th anniversary of Wi-Fi. And boy has it come a long way in those three decades.
What’s next for Wi-Fi
Today it’s hard to really overstate just how critical Wi-Fi is. Whether it’s at home, in the office, or out in the wider world: Wi-Fi is everywhere.
Without it, the internet would be far more restricted. Cables and cords almost seem barbaric nowadays. A relic from the technological past.
Seriously, you don’t know how good it is until it’s gone. It’s this ubiquity that is the real testament to Wi-Fi’s appeal.
Most people probably don’t even appreciate or recognise just how incredible it is. It’s just such a key part of our society that we take it for granted. Until it goes down of course…then there’s hell to pay.
What most people probably don’t know is that Wi-Fi is still evolving too. The core foundation is still the same, but every now and then it does get upgraded. That’s how we get faster speeds, better coverage and cater for more devices.
Right now most of your Wi-Fi connections are likely running on 802.11ac, or Wi-Fi 5 as it may soon be called — an iteration that was released back in 2014.
Sometime this year Wi-Fi is going to get a much needed upgrade. 802.11ax, or Wi-Fi 6, is slated for a 2019 release. It’s a new protocol that is built for our ever increasing digital connections.
As you’d expect, this new version will be faster. At peak speed we should get up to a 40% performance boost over Wi-Fi 5. So look forward to that.
But that’s not all this new upgrade has to offer. More than speed, today’s Wi-Fi has to handle spread.
The number of devices connected to individual networks has grown enormously over the past few years. It’s not just computers, phones and tablets using Wi-Fi anymore. TVs, smart appliances, gaming consoles, smart speakers and much, much more are all connected nowadays.
All these connections create congestion in our networks. That’s why this latest version aims to ease some of these bottlenecks. With Wi-Fi 6 the aim is to connect more devices more reliably and more often.
In public venues or spaces in particular, this feature should help immensely. Think about how terrible the Wi-Fi can be at large sporting stadiums, airports, or other popular places. Wi-Fi 6 should help speed things up dramatically at these locations.
It would have been perfect for tonight’s fireworks shows around the nation. Alas, we’ll have to wait a little longer before we get a taste of the latest Wi-Fi has to offer.
At the very least we can be proud knowing that some brilliant minds from this nation helped make it possible.
This week in Money Morning
On Friday last week, Netflix released their fourth quarter results. Leading up to it, there was high expectations for a continued bull run. But as Harje has been warning for some time, the results were a complete letdown. And you shouldn’t touch any of their stock until you read why…
To read Monday’s article, click here.
Did you see oil’s recent pop? Did you manage to profit from it? I’m guessing some of you did. But the vast majority probably didn’t. And as Harje wrote on Tuesday, there’s a good reason why.
To learn more, click here.
In China, manufacturing productivity is growing at a much faster rate than demand. And because there’s finite demand for goods, Chinese businesses have little incentive to keep making stuff for buyers that don’t exist. This is becoming a major problem for their economy. And as Harje wrote on Wednesday, tech isn’t going to save them…
To learn more, click here.
Donald Trump has had enough. He’s had it with the media. He’s had it with the political left. He’s also had it with China and their meetings that go nowhere. So what does this mean for the trade war?
Click here to read Harje’s Thursday article and find out.
The Big Four have had it too good for too long. And it’s been at the expense of the little guy. But in light of the Banking Royal Commission, could this all be about to change? Could we soon see our banking system decentralised?
To read Friday’s Money Morning, click here.
Happy Australia Day,
For Money Morning