Are Wireless and Wi-Fi the same?

Contrary to popular belief, Wireless Communication and Wi-Fi technology are not interchangeable terms. By knowing the difference between wireless systems and WI-FI systems, you are able to assess the security/access control needs for your facility. This will make you better equipped to make a purchasing decision.

Wireless Communication is a generic term that can refer to several different things, such as the radio in your car, cell phones, walkie-talkies, garage door openers or even Wi-Fi.  All of these devices use radio waves to carry information.  The frequency of the radio waves on which they transmit information is the difference between the technologies. Each technology transmits on different frequencies to transfer data; therefore, they do not communicate with each other. For example, you couldn’t use your garage door opener to call your best friend. Similarly, just because a device is “wireless” doesn’t mean it will communicate with your Wi-Fi system.

Wi-Fi, which stands for “wireless fidelity”, is trademarked by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Wi-Fi is similar to the radio waves used for cell phones and walkie-talkies, but a Wi-Fi signal is transmitted at a higher frequency and can deliver more data. The wireless adaptor in your computer changes the data (known as binary code) into a radio signal and transmits it to a router. The router then decodes the data and sends it to the Internet by using a wired LAN (Local Area Network). A Wi-Fi connection is bi-directional, so this process also works in reverse.

The most common way in which this communication is achieved is when an Internet Service Provider (ISP) provides a broadband signal from their network to a home or business through fiber optic or standard cable connection. This wired connection from the ISP is connected to a modem which receives the signal.  A wireless access point such as a wireless router is connected to the modem and broadcasts the Wi-Fi signal. The Wi-Fi signal can then be accessed by any computer with a wireless card installed. The key components of any Wi-Fi system are the transmitter and receiver that speak the same language and pass information between each other.

As you dive deeper into this type of technology, the details continue to become complex. However, by having this basic knowledge, you have a starting point in which to base your questions when working with a security technician.

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