A new type of wallpaper can block Wi-Fi signals from entering or leaving a building.
Wireless networks have their obvious advantages: setting up new devices is simple; there are no cables to trip over; peripherals, such as printers and external hard drives, can easily be shared; and, of course, Wi-Fi enables people to be mobile, not needing to be tethered to the modem or router in order to have Internet access.
But with these advantages also come several concerns:
Some people believe that having Wi-Fi in schools is making our children sick. As I pointed out back in 2010 – Should Wi-Fi be outlawed in schools? – the most accepted evidence suggests that wireless equipment is safe. But as I mentioned in that post, “our kids are being exposed to more sources of electromagnetic fields than ever before – cell and cordless phones, cell phone base stations, wireless routers, printers and video game controllers, etc., etc. – and that these devices haven’t been around for long enough for their effects to be known for sure.”
Last year, the World Health Organization classified radio frequency electromagnetic fields as “Possibly carcinogenic to humans.” Other agents found in this group (2B) include engine exhaust, lead, coffee and pickled vegetables … so don’t send your kids to school with a morning java or pickles in their sandwiches. All joking aside, some schools are taking this very seriously. A school in Ontario has removed and replaced their Wi-Fi with hard-wired Internet connections and just this past weekend at the annual meeting of the B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils, parents have insisted that schools stop installing new Wi-Fi systems and that each school district within the province have at least one school free of Wi-Fi.
Accessing public Wi-Fi can also have its risks, as Marc Saltzman highlights in his article, Watch out for ‘rogue’ Wi-Fi networks (if you’re looking for tips and simple steps on how to protect yourself, this is a must-read). Andrew Kameka’s post, How to protect your computer on an open wireless network: the dangerous lesson of Firesheep, is also worth checking out.
Having an unsecured wireless network at home is definitely not a good idea. If you’re like me and your ISP only offers a limited amount of bandwidth as part of your monthly plan, going over those limitations can be extremely costly. If you haven’t secured your network, anyone within range of your Wi-Fi (neighbours, people walking past your house, etc.) can access your network.
Should someone gain access to your wireless network, a large Internet bill could be the least of your problems. Take, for example, the case of the man who was accused of downloading child pornography after his neighbour stole his Wi-Fi. As Jeremy Phan points out in his article, Password-protect your WiFi network NOW!, “leaving your wireless network unsecured is the digital equivalent of walking around with your social insurance number, date of birth, address and mother’s maiden name tattooed on your forehead for the world to see.”
Aside from ripping out Wi-Fi in schools, installing hard-wired Internet connections, and password-protecting your Wi-Fi network (which you should do anyway!), there may be another way to block Wi-Fi signals from leaving your home, or prevent them from entering the building: Wi-Fi-blocking wallpaper. Because it’s coated in conductive silver ink, the new wallpaper, developed by Institut Polytechnique de Grenoble (INP), can block electromagnetic wave frequencies used by wireless networks, but still permit other signals through, such as those used by mobile phones. According to Springwise.com:
The ING researchers have granted Finnish company Ahlstrom exclusive rights to manufacture the wallpaper, and it is expected to go on sale in 2013. They explain that it should cost the same as a mid-range traditional wallpaper.
If the patterned wallpaper doesn’t fit in with your décor, the product is apparently still effective should you want to cover it. One question that immediately comes to my mind is: what about rooms with windows? Couldn’t Wi-Fi signals enter and exit from there? Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an answer by deadline, so I guess it’s back to wearing a tinfoil hat for me.
What do you think about this Wi-Fi-blocking wallpaper? Would you use it in your home or business? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.
[Source and image credit: Springwise]