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This page describes the key components and the measurement workflow of the WiFiMon system.

WiFiMon Architectural Components

Mobile User Device and Monitoring Probes

A mobile user device is any user's device connected to the WiFi network (laptop, phone, tablet,...). Crowdsourced measurements are gathered from the user devices when the user visits some chosen webpage which contains WiFiMon JavaScript code that invokes measurements. This is a WiFiMon Software Probe (WSP).

In addition WiFiMon offers hardware probes (WHP) which are installed on a small form factor hardware (e.g. Raspberry Pi) and placed in fixed positions.

WiFiMon Admin 

The WiFiMon admin is the network administrator managing the WiFi network and the WiFiMon system. Using the WiFiMon UI, they can perform queries to the Elastic ELK Cluster and get information about the performance of the wireless network.

Figure 1: WiFiMon Architectural Components

Elastic ELK Cluster

The WiFiMon Analysis Station (WAS) uses an ELK cluster for performance measurement data processing and visualisation. Elasticsearch is a full-text, distributed NoSQL search engine which enables storing of raw measurement data, its high-speed access and processing. Raw measurement data received from multiple measurement data sources is filtered and correlated in the Logstash and stored in the cluster. The WiFiMon Admin uses Kibana as a web user interface and for cluster management. Another component of Elastic Stack is the Filebeat, which is installed as an agent on the severs that are used to stream the Additional (Exported) Raw Data. Filebeat monitors log files for new content, collects log events, and forwards them to Logstash.

Data Sources

  • Collected Raw Measurement Data
    Measurement data is gathered from measurements made by mobile user devices (WiFiMon Software Probe - WSP) and WiFiMon Hardware Probes (WHP). Measurement data from the WSP is generated when the user visits a dedicated web page (e.g. captive portal, often visited university web page, etc.) which contains prepared WiFiMon Javascript code. The Javascript code initiates different measurement tests  (Boomerang, NetTest and HTML5 SpeedTest) between the mobile device and the test server (WTS). The WTS sends data towards the WiFiMon Analysis Server (WAS).  The data gathered from the WSP/WHP measurements include: upload and download throughput, round trip times, and information related to the Operating System (OS) and/or browser used by the WSP/WHP. In addition to these measurements, WHPs stream additional data to the WAS. This data includes metrics pertaining to the wireless network interfaces of the WHPs. Specifically, WiFiMon is collects the signal level, the link quality, the bit rate and the transmission power of the wireless connections.
  • Additional (Exported) Raw Data
    WiFiMon can be deployed in any WiFi network, but can give additional benefits if used in an eduroam environment, where through analysis of the eduroam logs very detailed performance assessments can be obtained.  If eduroam is used, the mobile user will be authenticated at the home organisation (IdP) and authorised at the end-user's location (SP) on an IEEE 802.1X based WiFi network. In order to make a thorough analysis of the WiFi network performance (e.g. per access point, per user, per operating system, etc.) it is necessary to gather additional data from services including eduroam and DHCP which reveal the IP addresses particular users have, the access point they are associated to, etc. These logs are fetched from Filebeat agents and are then sent to Logstash pipelines for filtering and editing, before being stored in the WAS.

WiFiMon Agent / UI

  • WiFiMon Agent

    Processes collected raw and exported measurement data to provide insight on the wireless network performance per client or AP. The results of correlations are stored in the ELK Cluster.
  • WiFiMon UI

    Provides temporal graphs of all the performance metrics, allows queries to retrieve information about the measurements initiated from the WSP or WHP associated to a specific access point and within a specific time period. Other queries could be to retrieve the information about specific IP ranges, test tools, user browsers  etc.

Data Security

The main WiFiMon service delivery model assumes that the WiFiMon user installs all the WiFiMon components in their premises. Therefore all the data remains in the user's possession all the time and the WiFiMon team does not have any access to it. All the traffic in transit between the WiFiMon components is TLS encrypted. Furthermore, sensitive and potentially personally identifiable information data such as mobile user IP or MAC address are hashed before being stored in the WAS. The correlation procedure mentioned in the WiFiMon Agent section is performed over the hashed data.

WiFiMon Building Blocks and Measurement Workflow

WiFiMon Test Server (WTS)

WiFiMon uses active probing in order to obtain WiFi network performance metrics. Active probe packets are exchanged between the WSP and WHP on one side and the WiFiMon Test Server on the other. WTS uses NetTest, Boomerang and SpeedTest measurement software which can provide information about the packet round trip times and network performance data including bandwidth and latency (represented in Figure 2 as lines marked as 2.1, 2.2, and 2.5).

One of the methodologies that WiFiMon tests use is to measure the upload and download time for a file that the WiFiMon administrator chooses. By choosing a larger file, more accurate measurements can be obtained, because of the ramp-up time of TCP congestion control/windowing mechanisms and slow start. However there is a trade-off because larger transfer sizes mean introducing a larger traffic overhead and this way a potential negative impact to the WiFi network. Therefore it is recommended that the file size is comparable to the size of a typical web page (up to 5MB). This way one measurement would push to the network and user's device probe traffic comparable to one web site visit and the obtained measurements would show the throughput and the time to load such a page as the user sees it.

The obtained throughput metrics should not be considered as the maximum achievable throughput of the WiFi network at the moment of measurement, but the WiFi network administrator should rather look at the relative differences between the measurements in order to get the insight into the quality of the user's experience with the WiFi network  uses. The location of the WTS and its topological distance from the monitored WiFi network has a major impact on the crowdsourced measurement accuracy and reliability. You can read more about this here.

WiFiMon Software Probe (WSP)

The WiFiMon Software Probe (WSP) is the JavaScript code integrated into some chosen often-visited web page(s) (e.g. captive portal, university web page or similar). Whenever a user visits the page, the monitoring tests are invoked. It is possible that a user repetitively visits that same web page or frequently refreshes the browser on the page. Such behaviour could result in excessive probe traffic being injected into the network, overloading WiFiMon components and creating an additional unwanted traffic over the WiFi network. To alleviate this problem, WSPs include a cookie with a customisable blocking time parameter (e.g. 5 minutes). New measurements by the same WiFi network user (same browser) are only then possible after the blocking time in the cookie expires.

Figure 2: WiFiMon Measurement Workflow

WiFiMon Hardware Probe (WHP)

The WiFiMon Hardware Probes (WHPs) are set up on small form factor devices, such as the Raspberry Pi. The WHP probe may be viewed as an end-user logged in to the eduroam wireless network, but monitoring continuously from a fixed point. It measures bandwidth, latency, the average values of bit rate, the signal level, the link quality and the transmission power. The WiFiMon team recommends setting up a WHP on a Raspberry Pi v3 Model B+ or on a v4 Pi.

WiFiMon Analysis Server (WAS)

The WiFiMon Analysis Server (WAS) processes the performance results of crowdsourced and deterministic measurements received from WSPs and WHPs respectively. The WAS consists of the WiFiMon agent, Elasticsearch, Logstash and the WiFiMon UI/Kibana for customising reports and their visualisation.

Websites monitored by WiFiMon are not only visited by end users residing in the monitored subnets, but also from end users external to them. Therefore it is important to prevent the WAS from processing excessive traffic and measurements which are not related to the WiFi network that is being monitored. To that end, WiFiMon maintains a list of registered subnets. Upon accepting a connection from an end user, the WiFiMon Test Server check whether this end user is within a monitored subnet by obtaining the list of registered subnets from the WAS (2.3, 2.4). For WSPs/WHPs residing within the registered subnets, network performance metrics are calculated and streamed from the end devices to the WiFiMon Analysis Server (2.6) to be processed. Afterwards, the WAS correlates performance data with client IPs and AP-IDs (2.7/2.8). Results are stored in the ELK stack.

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