How Does Wireless Technology Work?
Here's a Simple Explanation

The question how does wireless technology work is easily answered.

It really only involves two things:

  • information
  • something to carry this information from one place to another

Let’s put the something aside and first answer the question...

What types of information are there?

This addresses the first part of the question how does wireless technology work, and here are a few examples you may already be familiar with...

  • A TV remote controller sends control command information to your TV, commanding it to go to the sports channel, or turn the sound up.

  • A remote garage door controller sends control command information to a garage door, commanding it to open or close.

  • A wireless sound system sends audio information (music or TV sound) to your wireless headphones or speakers.

  • A wireless network-connected laptop computer sends and receives packets of complex data, allowing it to talk to other computers on the network.

  • A cellular phone system routes packets of telecommunications information simultaneously on many channels in vast quantities.

Information may travel in one direction or in both directions...from A to B and from B to A. This is where two wireless devices talk to each other in a two-way conversation. But whatever the nature or complexity of the information, it needs that something to carry it.

So what is this something? It's the second of the two answers to the question how does wireless technology work...

The best thing to carry information from one place to another is...

electromagnetic energy

because it can be radiated and be made to pass through space, air and some solid objects. And best of all, it still works when that one place is moving relative to the other.

Here are some examples

Here are some examples of electromagnetic energy suitable for carrying information:

  • Radio waves
  • Microwaves
  • Infra-red light
  • Laser light

And while these have separate names, this is just for our convenience...they’re just different parts of the same thing, the continuous electromagnetic spectrum.

So what type of electromagnetic energy do the examples above use?

  • TV remote controllers mostly use Infra-red light energy to carry, or send the information from the remote in your hand to the TV. We can’t see Infra-red light, because it’s not in the visible part of the spectrum.

    When you push a button on your remote, an Infra-red light emitter starts flashing rapidly, perhaps thousands of times a second, to send a coded signal to a special receiver in your TV. The receiver sees the light, decodes the flashes, reproduces the command then carries it out.

    These work well in a room in line-of-site of the TV, but wouldn’t work at all if there were a wall in the way.
    However there is a type of energy that can penetrate walls and other solid objects and answers the question how does wireless technology work in buildings and cars...
  • Remote garage door controllers use Radio Frequency waves (usually just called RF).
    This type of energy can usually penetrate glass windows, walls and other non-metallic objects.

    The command information is superimposed on the radio signal and when the garage door receiver detects some of this RF energy, it decodes the information from it, and carries out the command.

  • The cellular phone system uses Microwaves because it needs to carry such a vast amount of information that it needs an extra-broadband carrier and Microwaves can carry this big load. Like the Infra-red beam from the TV remote, the microwave transmitter and receiver work best in line-of-sight with no objects in between.
    Cellular systems are increasingly being used to access the Internet. High speed, anytime, anywhere Internet access is becoming a reality. How Does Wireless Internet Work?

Want some examples of how wireless technology is applied to various products?

Here are some interesting products that use wireless technology

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