There's A New Kind Of Wi-Fi That Uses 10,000 Times Less Power

There's a New Kind of Wi-Fi That Uses 10,000 Times Less Power

Wi-Fi is already a very great thing. Problem is -- especially for mobile devices -- Wi-Fi is also an energy suck. But now, scientists have come up with a way of connecting to Wi-Fi that requires even less energy than a Bluetooth connection. It's a system called "passive Wi-Fi", which aims to consume at least 1000 times less power than typical Wi-Fi portals, including Bluetooth Low Energy and Zigbee. As an idea, it's been around for a while -- but this is the first time it's been proven. At top performance, this new Wi-Fi system can actually use 10,000 times less energy than usual.

How'd they do it? Scientists at the University of Washington reimagined how radios work. Radio transmissions involve two operations: digital and analogue. Over the last couple of decades, the digital part has become much more energy efficient, but analogue remains a nasty energy drain. So the team simply separates the two functions.

First, a single device plugged into a wall -- this part uses most of the power in this whole process -- sends analogue waves to special passive Wi-Fi sensors. These sensors require practically no energy to run. They then pick up those waves, reflecting them with a digital switch, which creates what the team calls "Wi-Fi packets". Those beam low-energy internet at bit rates of up to 11 megabits per second to devices like phones and routers.

There's a New Kind of Wi-Fi That Uses 10,000 Times Less Power

The researchers says this method was successfully tested in actual situations on campus. Even cooler? Those special sensors can communicate with phones up to 30m away.

This low-energy development will come in handy as your house gets filled with more wearable sensors and internet-connecting kitchen appliances. Nonprofits like Wi-Fi Alliance have been searching for a far-reaching, low-energy internet solution. The study was funded by the US National Science Foundation, the University of Washington and Qualcomm, and the results will be shared next month at the USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation. Inevitably, it could take some time before this research becomes a new Wi-Fi standard, but this could be a big step in the right direction.

[University of Washington via]

Image: University of Washington YouTube



    Ok, there is something I don't get here. When I turn on my wifi on my phone, the battery life hardly gets impacted. When I turn on my Bluetooth, I hardly get a day's worth out of it. So is Bluetooth really efficient at all like it says in this article, or is that pure B******T...

      Back on my old galaxy S (yeah the first one!), having bluetooth on for any long period of time, meant charging my phone at least twice a day. However, as time has progressed, and Bluetooth standards gotten better, I can now have my BT turned on all day with no appreciable loss of battery (currently using an iPhone 6+ [work phone]). In terms of overall battery usage. BT doesn't really use that much. If I remember correctly, it's something like hardly anything. Taken over a long period of time, yes it all adds up. But not that much. At least not anymore.

      FYI, I currently keep wifi, bluetooth, and mobile connections turned on at all times on my iPhone. Usually by bed time, I am looking at between 45% and 75% battery left depending on how much I used my Bluetooth headset (I really like audiobooks).

      My gym has a Bluetooth enabled speaker, that I can stream music to from my S5... Even at 45% of battery power remaining, it can go for several hours without dropping below the 40% mark..... Its pretty efficient compared to WiFi....

    would be great for smart home devices that are meant to save power

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