A Walk on the Client Side: Monitoring Enterprise Wifi Networks Using Smartphone Channel Scans

Proceedings of the 2016 IEEE International Conference on Computer Communications (INFOCOM'16). CORE 2014: A*. Acceptance rate: 18%. 5/10/2016, San Francisco, CA.

Abstract

During the one minute it takes to read this abstract, two billion smartphones worldwide will perform billions of Wifi channel scans recording the signal strength of nearby Wifi Access Points (APs). Yet despite this ongoing planetary-scale wireless network measurement, few systematic efforts are made today to recover this potentially valuable data.

In this paper we ask the question: Are the smartphone channel scans useful in monitoring enterprise Wifi networks? More specifically, can these client-side measurements provide new insights compared to the AP-side measurements that enterprise Wifi networks already perform? Beginning with two Wifi scan datasets collected on two large scale smartphone testbeds, we conduct case studies that show how smartphone channel scans can be used to (1) improve AP spectrum management, and (2) predict the impact of AP failure or overload. In each case, a walk on the client side yields valuable insights for network operators that are otherwise impossible to gain from AP-side measurements, and together our results demonstrate the value of smartphone channel scans.

Dataset

We have made the PhoneLab Wifi dataset analyzed in this paper available on CRAWDAD.

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