Wallpaper designed to protect Wi-Fi networks

BAE Systems is betting that its high-tech wall coverings will be the answer to companies' wireless-networking worries.

British defense contractor BAE Systems has developed a stealth wallpaper designed to stop electronic eavesdropping on Wi-Fi networks.

The company has produced panels designed to prevent outsiders from listening in on companies' Wi-Fi traffic but let other traffic through, including radio and mobile phone signals.

The FSS (Frequency Selective Surface) panels are made in the same way as printed circuit boards, with layers of copper on Kapton polymer. These materials are also used in stealth bombers and fighter jets. The panels come in two varieties: passive, which is permanently turned on, and active, where various areas can be switched on and off to enlarge or limit the area of the network.

The panels are 50 to 100 microns thick and can be applied to most surfaces, including glass. A company representative said that they also helped reduce "noise" in buildings where a number of companies operate their own separate LANs (local area networks).

BAE Systems developed the new material with US$265,000 (145,000 pounds) from the Radiocommunications Agency, which is now part of Ofcom. BAE says the material is cheap. The company will be developing it commercially through its corporate venture subsidiary.

There is no schedule for the panels' commercial availability.

Ron Coates of Silicon.com reported from London.