Wake Forest nonprofit a hub for wireless technology’s development, future

Wake County News

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (WNCN) – The new 5G technology for smartphones is the next big thing on the horizon. One of a handful of research facilities for it is tucked away in Wake Forest.

It wasn’t long ago when smartphones took off and people worried about how life would be with so many cell towers popping up all over the place. They’re an afterthought for many today.

The next generation of antennas is on the way. They’ll be smaller and less obvious, but will also transmit 5G wireless communication. The Wireless Research Center and it’s team of engineers is leading the charge.

“The room is anechoic, which means no echo, and the cones absorb radio waves as they hit the wall so that there’s no echo back or no reflections,” said CEO and President Gerry Hayes.

When it was built, it was one of only three in the world. The chamber allows them to monitor radio waves without outside interference. The objective is to make wireless experiences more dependable.

Collecting that data also includes the use of a simulated head and a cell phone that rotates 360 degrees.

“You can imagine having a call. When you turn, we can characterize that in this type of chamber,” Hayes said. 

It’s not just WiFi and cell phones. The research includes technology for the Department of Defense, robots, smart clothing, fitness trackers, and medical devices.

“It’s exciting, and that’s what drives engineers is to help find solutions and to foster that and to see the product grow into maturation. And, for the Wireless Center to be able to see the impact on both the products and on society, that’s what motivates us,” Hayes said.

“That’s why we’re proud to be a non-profit, as well. There’s a bit of paying it forward and see that is exciting.”

The facility came to be after telecom companies closed up shop and the talent stayed. That includes people who worked for Alcatel Lucent, Nortel Networks, and Cisco.

Gerry Hayes and the Town of Wake Forest saw that as an opportunity. Together, with funding from the Golden Leaf Foundation, they created the Wireless Research Center as a nonprofit. Its methodology is to see their clients as collaborators rather than competitors. That’s especially true in regard to the development of the intellectual property.

“The town was interested in economic development, and it was a way to allow people to stay here, to grow, to build companies, and jobs. And that was the motivation for the center. It was really forward thinking, and this was way before 5G was on the horizon,” Hayes said. “It’s really that marriage of technology and economic development that makes the center very unique.”

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