A team from the University of Washington might have just saved our phone batteries from the constant drain of Wi-Fi. While Wi-Fi is amazing for scrolling through Facebook, it zaps battery life quickly. This new technology generates Wi-Fi to use 10,000 times less power than typical methods.
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The US researchers call the system "Passive Wi-Fi." They effectively decoupled analog and digital workings of a radio transmissions. The digital side remains highly efficient, but it's the analog bit that drains energy.
Electrical engineering doctoral student and co-author Vamsi Talla noted 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.”
Passive Wi-Fi reassigns the analog functions to one device in a network plugged into the wall. According to the research paper:
"Passive Wi-Fi transmissions can be decoded on any Wi-Fi device including routers, mobile phones and tablets."
The passive Wi-Fi simply bounces info around and it gets received with just 15 to 60 microwatts of power - 10,000 times less than your usual devices.
The paper's co-author and assistant professor Shyam Gollakota said the goal had been achieved.
“We wanted to see if we could achieve Wi-Fi transmissions using almost no power at all” said the computer science and engineering assistant professor.
“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.”
Granted, the team's current connection runs relatively slow at 11 megabits per second. That's still higher than Bluetooth, but significantly slower than high-speed Wi-Fi connections. However, they're definitely working on improving connection speed.
The project garnered plenty of praise, despite having yet been peer-reviewed. MIT Technology Review listed it as one of its top 10 innovative technologies for the year.
This project could certainly be the savior for your phone's battery life and still reduce your monthly data bills by keeping you on Wi-Fi.
National Science Foundation, University of Washington and Qualcomm funded the research.