UC Profs Invent Automated Troubleshooter for WiFi Nets

A team of UC San Diego computer science professors has developed  an automated, enterprise-wide system for troubleshooting WiFi transmissions.

"People expect WiFi to work, but there is also a general understanding that it's just kind of flakey," said Stefan Savage, a member of the team who developed the test system. Savage said the system, which operates 24 hours per day, automatically analyzes the behavior of all WiFi connections on the network, a process of data gathering that would take an IT worker hours.

The team has a set of techniques for automatically characterizing the source of  data transfer delays that are unique to 802.11 WiFi networks. "We've created a virtual wireless expert who is always at work," said Yu-Chung Cheng, a computer science Ph.D. student at UCSD and lead author on a paper describing the system.

Savage said one of the lessons of the project is that no one thing
affects wireless network performance. Instead, there are a lot of little problems that interact and go wrong in ways one might not anticipate.

"In the future, I think that enterprise wireless networks will have sophisticated diagnostics and repair capabilities built in," he said. "In the meantime, our system is the ultimate laboratory for testing new wireless gadgets and new approaches to building wireless systems."

The system is described in a paper that was presented in August at a meeting of the Association of Computing Machinery in Kyoto, Japan.

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About the Author

Paul McCloskey is contributing editor of Syllabus.

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