NASA-developed Wi-Fi chip aims to increase the battery life of wearables

We all want better battery life, could this technology be the way to get it?
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Researchers at NASA have developed a Wi-Fi chip for wearables that uses 1,000 times less power and triples Wi-Fi speeds.

Here's how it works. To browse the internet, your smartphone or smartwatch needs to generate and send a signal to your router and your router then generates and sends a signal back. This new Wi-Fi chip reflects a constant signal instead of generating its own original signal. Data is imprinted on the signal when it's reflected, so the main bulk of hard work is taken care of by a specialised router. So it's faster and needs less power.

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"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)," said NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory researcher, Adrian Tang.


At around 2.5 metres (8 feet), the team managed to get a data transfer speed of around 330 megabits per second, roughly three times the rate of typical Wi-Fi, and managed to use roughly 1,000 times less power than a standard chip. How much this will affect the battery life of our wearables has not yet been clarified but we're hoping it could add hours onto the life of a smartwatch.

The only downside is that the router or device sending the signal will experience a bigger draw on power, but the researchers are working on fixing this issue.

At the moment there's a difficult choice when buying a smartwatch, deciding between having a beautiful display as on the Apple Watch, or having decent week long battery life like the Pebble Time. This tech has the potential to help activity trackers, running watches and smartglasses have an easier job slotting into our lives.


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