The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is widely credited with the invention of wi-fi - albeit by accident!
The Australian radio-astronomer Dr John O'Sullivan with his colleagues Terence Percival, Graham Daniels, Diet Ostry, John Deane developed a key patent used in Wi-Fi as a by-product of a CSIRO research project which was referred to as
"a failed experiment to detect exploding mini black holes the size of an atomic particle".
Dr O'Sullivan and his colleagues are credited with inventing Wi-Fi. In 1992 and 1996, CSIRO obtained patents for a method later used in Wi-Fi to "unsmear" the signal.
Because the CSIRO invented it. US courts agree, too, ruling in 2012 that companies which produce wi-fi devices were to pay our sciencetific research body a royalty for each one they sold. Up to the point when the patent ran out the CSIRO has hauled in some $430m from its discovery, with more likely to come after restrospective cases are settled.
Wi-Fi uses a large number of patents held by many different organizations. In April 2009, 14 technology companies agreed to pay CSIRO $1 billion for infringements on CSIRO patents. This led to Australia labeling Wi-Fi as an Australian invention, though this has been the subject of some controversy.
The CSIRO won a further $220 million settlement for Wi-Fi patent-infringements in 2012 with global firms in the United States required to pay the CSIRO licensing rights estimated to be worth an additional $1 billion in royalties.
In 1999, the Wi-Fi Alliance formed as a trade association to hold the Wi-Fi trademark under which most products are sold.
Nowadays wi-fi has become so ubiquitous that for the first time ever there are more wi-fi gadgets in the world than there are people, including a growing number that only communicate with other machines, according to data from digital analysts at GSMA Intelligence.
Gadgets like tablets, smartphones and not-so-smart phones are multiplying five times faster than we are, with our population growing at a rate of about two people per second, or 1.2% annually.
Kevin Kimberlin, Chairman of Spencer Trask & Co states...
"No other technology has impacted us like the mobile phone. It's the fastest growing man-made phenomenon ever -- from zero to 7.2 billion in three decades"
Watch how a team of Australian radio astronomers solved the problem of high speed wireless internet .
This story was first screened on ABC-TV’s Catalyst program in 2009.
(c) Australian Broadcasting Corporation