Who doesn’t want to use YouTube or watch favorite shows on Netflix for hours and hours on their smartphone? The only hurdle that we face is that wireless connections and battery life aren’t very compatible with each other. Whenever we need to watch a movie or video, the battery runs out after some time. So how can we enjoy endless connectivity without hurting our phone’s battery life? The University of Washington’s engineers has the answer.
Reportedly, engineers at the prestigious University of Washington, USA, have created Wi-Fi transmissions that utilize about 10,000 times less energy than the traditional connections. This means you can enjoy seamless download speed all the time without draining your phone out of battery.
As of now, the team has achieved 11 megabits per second speed but they are working on improving the connection speed. Moreover, they have demonstrated that this “passive Wi-Fi technology” [Pdf] is a very productive one as it works well in real-world testing and integrates effortlessly with currently available models of smartphones and routers.
We know that Wi-Fi signals need to send information across the digital baseband, which is a digital frequency, and a traditional analog radio frequency referred to as RF. The two frequencies collaborate to send out packets of information, which are then decoded by our mobiles. This digital baseband technology has evolved a lot over the past few decades and has become much more efficient now and hence, it sends information without consuming a lot of energy.
“The plugged-in device is used to send the wave RF signal to the Passive Wi-Fi device which then generates Wi-Fi packets and sends it to existing devices including smartphones.”
On the other hand, RF devices haven’t gone through as much evolution and still consume hundreds of milliwatts of power. This is the main problem since to receive Wi-Fi signals on our mobile we need both digital and RF receiver. This is the main reason why our phone’s battery gets drained all the time while using Wi-Fi network.
The research team of the University of Washington has managed to decouple analog and digital frequencies and relegated all analog RF functions to a single plug-in device, which generates the Wi-Fi signal using a wide range of sensors.
These Wi-Fi packets are reflected and absorbed through a digital switch called the Passive Wi-Fi device. This device doesn’t require much energy at all because the device bounces the information to our mobile or router and it is then received by consuming about 15 to 60 microwatts, which is 10,000 times less than the current devices. When practically tested, the passive reflectors were able to communicate with off-the-shelf mobiles/smartphones at a distance of 30m or 100 feet.
A member of the team Shyam Gollakota explains:
“We wanted to see if we could achieve Wi-Fi transmissions using almost no power at all. That’s basically what Passive Wi-Fi delivers. We can get Wi-Fi for 10,000 times less power than the best thing that’s out there.”
Another member Vamsi Tall stated that: “All the networking, heavy-lifting, and power-consuming pieces are done by the one plugged-in device. The passive devices are only reflecting to generate the Wi-Fi packets, which is a really energy-efficient way to communicate.”
The findings of their research will be unveiled at the USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation which is due to be held in March 2017. The paper hasn’t been peer-reviewed or verified independently as yet, therefore, we cannot fully trust the findings until we get thumbs up from the verifiers. However, the technology does seem promising and the proof is that MIT Technology Review has listed it in the top 10 breakthrough technologies of 2016.
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