Engineers Have Succeeded In Designing A Wi-Fi That Uses 10,000 Times Less Power Than The Conventional Wi-Fi

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Dec 12, 2016
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Now who doesn’t love Wi-Fi? Everyone loves it. Whether it’s streaming movies or random surfing, everyone uses it and for all those who use smart phones is aware of how Wi-Fi drains the phone’s battery life. US engineers have just generated Wi-Fi transmissions that use 10,000 times less power than the methods we use today. This basically means that you can download anything anytime without affecting battery life and the best bit is that it can be used with off-the-shelf smart phones.

The Future of Wi-Fi

The team from University of Washington won’t be breaking records any soon as it has only managed to achieve speeds of 11 megabits per second. But no need to be disappointed, they are getting there and they have shown that their ‘passive Wi-Fi technology works in real-world testing and is able to integrate, ‘seamlessly’ with existing routers and smart phones. “We wanted to see if we could achieve Wi-Fi transmissions using almost no power at all,” says one of the team, Shyam Gollakota. “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.”

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A paper on the results from this research will be presented next year in March at the USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation. The technology has yet to be verified by others but the best bit is that it has already been listed among the top 10 breakthrough technologies of 2016 by the MIT Technology Review. So it definitely shows promise and we are looking forward to this. So the next obvious question that arises at this point is how does this work?

The Wi-Fi workings

The Wi-Fi that we use currently has certain requirements. The information has to be sent across a digital frequency referred to as the digital baseband along with analogue radio frequency (RF). These two frequencies work side by side and send information packages that are then decoded by the smart phones. Over the past few decades, the digital baseband technology has progressed vastly and is more efficient than ever. However, the analogue radio frequency devices are still far behind and use hundreds if milliwatts of power.

But in order to receive Wi-Fi on our smart phones, both the digital and analogue part are required and not much can be done about that. The researchers at the University of Washington overcame this issue by decoupling the digital and analogue and lowering all analogue radio frequency functions to only one single plug in the device. Now what this plugged in device does is that it generates the Wi-Fi signal via an array of sensors and then these Wi-Fi ‘packets’ are reflected and absorbed through a digital switch. This digital switch in the trick, it is called the passive Wi-Fi device and barely uses any energy. The passive Wi-Fi then sends information to the smart phones or to the router where it is received using only around 15 -60 microwatts of power and this is a massive 10,000 times decline from the usual power used by devices.

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In the real world tests it is portrayed that these passive reflectors can communicate with the existing smart phones even at distances of 30 meters. “All the networking, heavy-lifting and power-consuming pieces are done by the one plugged-in device,” said one of the team, Vamsi Talla. “The passive devices are only reflecting to generate the Wi-Fi packets, which is a really energy-efficient way to communicate.”
I don’t know about you people but I am excited about this. I am a big smart phone user and low battery life due to Wi-Fi usage is my constant concern, so my fingers are crossed for the success of this project. Hope all goes well for this one.

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