Why are WiFi heat maps important for your business?

Almost one year on from the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and with vaccines on the way, many businesses are starting to plan their move back to the office. For the last year, significant numbers of employees around the world have been working remotely.

In a world where employees moved out of offices and into their homes, business responsibilities shifted dramatically. Providing a stable WiFi connection was no longer the office’s concern but rather something employees had to take care of on their end. But as many businesses begin to look at moving the workforce back into the office environment, these responsibilities are shifting back.

WiFi and reshuffling the workspace

It should come as no surprise that fast and efficient WiFi is paramount for any business in the modern world. However, excellent WiF isn’t just about ensuring you have a powerful enough router. For your WiFi to be effective, you have to ensure it can reach everywhere in the office it needs to be.

For many businesses, moving back to the office isn’t about returning things to how they were before the pandemic. This forced remote working trial worked surprisingly well for many companies. Companies that previously felt remote working wasn’t a good option for them now think differently. For these businesses, moving back to the office means restructuring the office workspace. It could mean that some teams continue to work remotely permanently or that teams rotate between remote working and on-premise working. Teams could now be sitting in different locations and find they are running into WiFi issues they weren’t before. This is where a WiFi heatmap comes in.

What is a WiFi heatmap?

A WiFi heatmap is a visual representation of WiFi signal strength across your network area. You get a WiFi heatmap by conducting a WiFi site survey. By looking at a heatmap, you can instantly see what areas of your office have excellent WiFi strength, which have weak signal strength, and whether there are any dead spots.

WiFI heatmaps use a color-coded system from red to blue, with the transition colors like orange, yellow, green, and light blue in between. Red means the signal is hot (very strong), whereas blue means the signal is cold (very weak). A heat map actually displays the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) rather than just signal strength. SNR is signal strength compared to the level of background noise coming from other radio-wave devices like wireless cameras, cordless phones, and microwave ovens.

How do you generate a heatmap?

You can generate a WiFi heatmap for your network area by downloading a heatmapper tool like NetSpot. Netspot is a WiFi heat mapping software for business or personal use. To get started, you download, install, and launch the software and then click “Start a new survey.” At this stage, you’ll be asked to either upload a map of the area or create a new map yourself using the map drawing tool.

wifi heatmapOnce you’ve got your map, you’re ready to start the WiFi heatmapping process. Simply walk around the office building with your laptop or device, paying attention to the areas you’ve already covered (these will be displayed as green bubbles). Some overlapping is okay, but be sure you don’t leave any gaps. When you’re happy that you’ve covered the whole area, press “stop scan” to view the results. By default, the map will show you the signal-to-noise ratio, but you can switch to other modes like signal-to-interference ratio for an even more comprehensive look at your network.

What to do when you’ve got your heatmap

Once you can see where the problem areas are in your network area, you can start to make changes to boost your wireless network performance. For example, if you notice that you have WiFi dead spots in the desks surrounding the kitchen, this could be due to interference from microwave ovens.

Separate to interference, radio-wave inhibiting materials can also be the cause of a weak signal. For example, WiFi struggles to travel through water or heavy walls and bookcases. Suppose you have water features or walls of thick drawers between your WiFi emitting device and the WiFi receiving systems (computers, phones, screens). In that case, the signal strength can drop off dramatically.

Armed with this information, you can begin to reshuffle the furniture in your office for maximum WiFi performance or install additional WiFi emitting routers of boosters. You will likely find that the signal strength drops off the further away a receiving device is from the router. This is one of the reasons that it’s important to place your router in a central location. Wireless routers are typically omnidirectional (they emit radio waves in all directions equally), so if you place a router in one corner of the office, lots of potential will be wasted.