Remember the school’s science fair when that weird kid connected a bag of potatoes to a light bulb? Boeing, one of the companies with the most sophisticated and innovative technology in the world, decided to test Wi-Fi signals with potatoes. They used 20,000 pounds of potatoes, to be more exact.
You know that term, couch potato? In Boeing’s Wi-Fi signal test that would have applied to some extent. The company decided to use 20,000 pounds of potatoes, instead of dozens of humans (a much more expensive option) to test the performance of its Wi-Fi network within an airplane. If it had been humans, however, they would have had the most boring and soon (horrific) job in the world: sitting in a grounded plane for days in a row. For anybody who waited for tardy passengers, even 10 minutes in a grounded plane is annoying.
Boeing released a video explaining why it chose potatoes to test the performance of its Wi-Fi signals. “…the vegetables’ interactions with radio wave signals mimic those of the human body, the perfect stand-in for people who otherwise would have had to sit motionless for days on end while data was gathered”.
The Chicago-based company wanted to make sure passengers won’t lose their internet connection even when they’re flying at 30,000 feet in the air. So the 20,000 pounds of potatoes sat in a Boeing airplane until experts managed to get all their data and make sure the Wi-Fi is consistent through the cabin without interfering with communication and navigation systems.
There was also a press release about the company’s newest “advanced method to test wireless signals in airplane cabins”, which again it involves potatoes. The process created by Boeing engineers aimed to measure radio signal quality of Wi-Fi networks “using proprietary measurement technology and analysis tools”. That “enables engineers to more efficiently measure how strong a signal is and how far it spreads, ensuring safe yet powerful signal penetration throughout an airplane cabin”.
The Wi-Fi potato experiment was shortened from the initial two weeks to 10 hours. And while Boeing didn’t reveal actual technical aspects of the experiment, it did mention it “takes advantage of state-of-the-art technology and ground-breaking statistical analysis to identify strong and weak signal areas and balance them by adjusting the connectivity system accordingly”.