My article is "Future Tech: Prepare for Truly Mobile WiFi" from the February 2009 issue of Discover Magazine, published online January 28, 2009. Click here to read this article.
This article introduces a new way to access the internet wirelessly while within a automobile or train, ViFi. ViFi, which is Vehicle WiFi, is a project from Microsoft Research in Redmond, Washington that explores a possible solution to a mobile problem with WiFi.
While in motion within an automobile or train, WiFi internet connections tend to become faulty. This is because WiFi accesses an internet connection from a wireless access point, or base station, while within that base station's range. Once the device accessing the internet connection leaves the range, another basestation must be located in order to reconnect, which is often times slow and disrupts internet activites and phone calls. ViFi presents an answer to this problem. ViFi connects to several basestations simultaneously, so that the person accessing the wireless connection "can request data via one base station and have that data routed to his computer even if he moves out of range of the original base station."
There is WiFi technology available that grant internet access wirelessly while traveling; however, these devices are costly and can sometimes be slower than a normal WiFi connection. This problem has been encountered by 3G networks so far. Furthermore, ViFi uses "standard mass-produced WiFi hardware", therefore making it cheaper to produce and place in cities or on highways.
This technology is currently being tested on Microsoft's campus. They have successfully connected two shuttle buses to the internet through a network of 11 base stations. Hopefully this number will be reduced in the future therefore improving the project by making it more efficient, but in the meantime researchers have given this project positive feedback.