Wearable devices are rising as the next big thing in tech, but there's one issue that is plaguing the wearable industry—battery life. Researchers at NASA, however, have figured out a way to transmit data between wearable devices and other devices that takes up much less power.
The microchips basically reflect wireless signals rather than using regular transmitters, and the result is data transmission that's up to three times faster than using regular Wi-Fi.
"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 Adrian Tang, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a statement.
As with any data, information sent to a wearable is represented as a 1 and 0, and in the system that a wearable device uses to communicate, this has to be made clear. In this new system, information that is absorbed within the circuit is represented as a "0" and information that's reflected that is represented as a "1." This switch mechanism is very simple and uses minimal power.
The real challenge is the fact that a wearable device isn't the only thing that reflects a signal. Things like doors, walls, furniture and almost anything else that happens to be around also reflect a signal. What this means is that the chip needs to be able to differentiate between the real signal and the signal being reflected by objects in the background. To overcome this, the team was able to develop a chip that constantly senses a background signal and suppresses it, enabling actual Wi-Fi signals to be transmitted without any interference.
The results are certainly impressive. At around 8 feet away from the wireless router, the team garnered a data transfer at around 330 megabits per second, which is approximately three times the rate of a typical Wi-Fi signal, all while using around 1,000 times less power.
While this sounds great, there are still a few challenges involved with the new tech. While the wearable device will experience a low power drain, the device that it is communicating with must have good battery life or be plugged in. Not only that, but the wireless router will also experience more power use, which could mean a rise in a user's power bill. Researchers are still figuring out how to avoid this issue.