Low-Power Wi-Fi for Long-Lasting Phones
July 29, 2015 Leave a comment
Electronics continue to increase their foothold in day-to-day life. Computers have moved from the workplace to the home, and from PCs to laptops, Chromebooks, and tablets. Electric motors have gone from curiosities to the future of automotive travel. Games, watches, kitchen appliances, and more are increasingly of the electrical and/or digital persuasion. The downside is the mirrored increase in power demands, and that is effectively demonstrated in perhaps the most commonly used electrical gadget, smartphones. An all-in-one communicator, computer, navigator, game player, and time waster, the smartphone has become a constant personal companion – and an always-hungry energy sink. Advances in battery technology are often reported, but have yet to enter the market. An alternative approach would be to find solutions based on energy efficiency, reducing battery-guzzling tendencies on as many fronts as possible.
NASA’s Adrian Tang and University of California’s M.C. Frank Chang have collaborated on a technological development that may help phones and other internet-capable devices save power. It’s a microchip that changes the way technology interacts when it comes to Wi-Fi, effectively lowering power consumption while increasing transmission speed. Essentially, the device in question becomes far more passive, shifting the burden of effort to whatever is sending the Wi-Fi signal (typically a router). Instead of a phone or other device sending out an exploratory “ping” to find a router and establish a connection, it waits for the router to send a signal out and then reflects it back. According to Tang, “The idea is if the wearable device only needs to reflect the Wi-Fi signal from a router or cell tower, instead of generate it, the power consumption can go way down (and the battery life can go way up).” NASA’s announcement notes that this doesn’t lessen the need for power, it just shifts it all to the router. So long as the router is plugged in, however, that would still mean a longer battery life for phones.