WiFi is an incredibly useful communication protocol that is widely used. In fact, it’s the de facto standard used to create wireless networks in homes, businesses, public spaces etc.
However, it’s not uncommon for signal strength to degrade due to a variety of factors, including distance from the access point, obstacles, competing WiFi signals, and appliances.
WiFi heat map software can create an accurate map of signal strength during a site survey, producing a graphical representation of hot, cold, and dead areas.
Many professionals responsible for installing and maintaining WiFi networks will find a lot of value to WiFi heat map software in order to implement an environment with the best wireless coverage and performance possible.
I have done my research and curated the top heat map tools in the market in the list below. Some of them are even free so they can benefit a person who wants something simple for smaller environments.
Keep in mind though that for a large scale enterprise site survey you will need professional gear (wifi hardware with specialized interface cards etc) so that you can get the best results.
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The Ekahau Heatmapper is a small package that only takes a single minute to install. Being free also makes it well worth a look for anyone who is having WiFi coverage issues.
It comes in two versions, the free HeatMapper one which is for home and SOHO use and also the Ekahau Pro version which is a commercial solution for Enterprise use.
Even though it only works on Windows, it can easily be installed on a laptop for best portability while moving around the area.
It will find all available access points in the area, and supports typical WiFi standards, including 802.11n and a/b/g.
After you install the tool on a Windows laptop and start the app, you will need to walk around in the house or office space (i.e site-surveying) so that the software will pick up all the available wireless signals and access points in the area.
After the site-survey (limited to 15 minutes of survey) you will get a heat-map with colors and signal strength numbers (in dBm) of the area. This will help you to adjust the location of access points or wifi routers, change channels for lowering interference etc.
As we mentioned above, if you need something more powerful for a commercial enterprise, it’s worth looking at the big brother of this software – Ekahau Pro. This includes many more analysis and troubleshooting features. You will need also to get some professional hardware gear for big scale surveys of large buildings.
- HeatMapper: Free
- Ekahau Pro: Between $4500 to $6000
One of the best things about NetSpot is that you get a professional level WiFi analysis tool for free, with the option to upgrade to the enterprise version for even more advanced capabilities.
It works on both Mac OS as well as on Windows (7,8,10), and provides a huge amount of information in a small package.
NetSpot will help you to work out where the hotspots and coldspots are, as well as the dead zones. It will help anyone to put together the optimum WiFi network for home, SOHO or larger environments.
When you fire up the free Netspot app, you will start getting information such as:
- SSID and MAC address of the wifi routers.
- A graphical map showing a history of the signal strength.
- Current signal strength in dBm
- Channel of signals, wireless band, width of frequency channel, protocol used etc
- And much more
So, just like the previous tool in this list, you can just walk around in the area with your laptop and start surveying the facility to get a heat map of the wireless signals. This will help you re-arrange access points if needed or change channels for better coverage.
Both free and paid versions are available.
The paid Enterprise version is priced at $499 for up to 10 users.
SolarWinds may not be free, but what it does is quite amazing. It quickly produces a WiFi heat map that will update in real time. This allows you to see any dead spots and their possible causes.
The other great thing about SolarWinds is that the maps it produces are attractive, intuitive, and very easy to understand. This makes it one of the easiest to understand WiFi heat mapping packages around.
It even discovers and maps all connected client devices within 3 meters. This can help in resolving problems with users that complain about their wifi reception. You can find out if the problem is their location or their client device.
By importing a background image of the office or room plan, you then drag and drop the wireless points on the map (routers, access points etc) to create the heat map.
It even supports creation of network diagrams using Microsoft Visio.
The wifi heat map functionality is offered under Solarwinds NPM (Network Performance Monitor) which is priced at $2,995 (starting price).
This is high level site mapping software that provides a bunch of great features, including geo-mapping extension through GPS, multiple parameter display, analysis of signal strength and quality in every location, export of CSV data for use in other tools, and multiple levels of reports that can be generated.
It’s not free but its licensing is simple. You can get a 1 month, 3 month, 1 year or perpetual license according to your needs and how often you want to use the tool.
Some of the features I like about this software is that you can calculate how many access points are needed, find out the best place to install the wifi access points or routers in the area etc.
This means that you must define the area map on the tool and then start placing the wifi end-points with their characteristics.
- 1 Month license: €129
- 3 Month license: €325
- 1 Year license: €879
- Perpetual license: €2199
This product is designed in a fashion that even non-technical people can understand and use it easily.
AirMagnet Survey Pro can generate a WiFi heat map on a single walkthrough. It can also allow you to see optimal positioning of access points through a simulation. This allows you to compare different WiFi network configurations in real time to see how they will perform.
What this allows is for any company to see how an end user would experience the WiFi network. Doing this will highlight any hot spots, cold spots, and dead zones.
What I like about this software is that it helps the professional to calculate the ideal quantity, placement, and configuration of WiFi access points for a successful deployment.
The software can be installed on a laptop, notebook PC or tablet running Microsoft Windows versions 7,8,10 or Apple Macbook Pro.
The vendor recommends also various wireless adapters that are supported or you can even buy their Multi-Adapter Kit.
Price range between $3500-$4500 (price may vary, you must contact the vendor).
Visiwave Site Survey generates one of the most beautiful WiFi heat maps in this list. It will map every detail and visualizes the WiFi signal data in both two dimensional and three dimensional maps with color coding for intuitive interpretation.
Visiwave also features GPS integration and will generate reports for further study and analysis.
One feature that many people will find useful is the predictive survey function. Using this function, one can input walls and other obstacles and have Visiwave predict what the WiFi heat map will look like. This makes it easy to predict WiFi coverage even before an office is built.
What I like about this tool is that on its report generated from the software you can visualize also the data rate bandwidth or each point in the map.
There are various pricing options available depending on the features and capabilities. Here are some options:
- VisiWave Site Survey: $549
- VisiWave Site Survey Pro (includes predictive surveys): $849
- VisiWave Site Survey Combo (includes spectrum analyzer device): $1649
If you would prefer a simpler approach with ultimate portability, then the WiFi heat map on the Google Play Store is a good candidate. Despite the fact that it has in-app purchases, it can be used for free.
By uploading a copy of your home’s floor plan, you can easily overlay a heat map of WiFi signal strength.
If you don’t have your floor plan available, the application has a built-in floor plan creator. It’s even possible to use GPS for outdoor areas and then upload to Google earth for an integrated WiFi map that anyone can access.
Many WiFi heat map tools are quite complex, but Tamograph prioritizes both speed and user-friendly operation. It works with all of the common standards, including 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax.
Because Tamograph is so fast and easy to use, it cuts down the waiting time and the time spent on learning new tools.
The maps are very easy to understand and interpret and it even works with GPS for outdoor area heat mapping. It may not be free, but it’s much more affordable than other similar tools and is also easier to use.
In order to acquire the full capabilities of this tool, the vendor recommends getting the boxed version of Tamograph which includes a compatible 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac USB adapter and a 4 GB USB flash drive with installation software or the bundle option with the USB spectrum analyzer card.
- TamoGraph site survey standard: €909.00
- TamoGraph site survey pro: €1269.00
- TamoGraph super bundle: €1769.00
Aruba Airwave offers a comprehensive and detailed look into all wired and wireless access points, including any mobile devices present.
This presents a map that is accurate down to the granular level and is ideal for IT professionals in the workplace and those onsite performing detailed site surveys.
Aruba Airwave also includes a comprehensive performance monitoring feature that can look at how applications are using WiFi and whether they pose a risk to mission critical business applications.
This tool offers multivendor support in addition to Aruba Networks such as Cisco, Juniper, Brocade, HP, Dell, Alcatel-Lucent etc.
Regarding deployment, the software either comes as standalone for installing on a VM or a pre-installed appliance.
You need to contact the sales team of Aruba.
WiFi Analyzer mobile is the ideal tool for those who just need a simple and attractive tool so that they can better understand their network. It may not feature all of the bells and whistles of higher end and professional applications, but it displays an attractive graph that allows anyone to see at a glance any WiFi congestion.
What WiFi analyzer does best is allow anyone to work out the best channel for their WiFi, taking into account interference from nearby networks as well as connection speeds and signal strength.
Obviously this is better suited for home use and for optimizing your home or small office WiFi coverage.
It runs on Android smartphone as app, which offers great mobility and an easy to understand interface.
WiFi is critical to most modern businesses these days, but it is not a foolproof protocol. Working out the best layout for a WiFi network has never been easier with so many tools available. Whether you are at home or in the workplace, these WiFi heat mapping tools can help you to get a better connection and a better optimization of your WLAN network.
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