It's an act of waste that people the world over engage in every day just by switching on their mobile devices: boot up a mobile phone, netbook, or other mobile device and it begins searching in every direction for a communications node. Then, once it finds one and connects through that transmitter, the device continues to broadcast in every direction anyhow.
If devices could broadcast in a specific direction, Rice University researchers say, they could cut power consumption by more than half. So they created a beamsteering scheme that can do exactly that.
It's easy enough to focus communications waves in a single direction using an array of several antennas, but doing so without wasting more energy than is saved presents a particular challenge. In such a scheme, each antenna needs both power and space, neither of which come in abundance in devices that are designed to fit in the pocket, or even the attaché.
But the Rice team took advantage of better antenna tech that has shrunk transmitter sizes down to such a size that a few can be tucked into a device the size of an iPad (further miniaturization of antenna tech will allow for more and better antennas in even smaller devices). They also demonstrate in their paper how beamsteering can create a net energy gain for the device over omnidirectional transmission.
The paper also addresses interference problems that could arise between competing users when each of them is beaming signals directly at a Wi-Fi hub with four antennas. It's a hardware problem with a software solution: a piece of software called BeamAdapt running on beamsteering mobile devices acts as an arbitrator between them, figuring out broadcast settings that optimize transmission for everyone involved.
After real tests on a small network and simulated tests on a larger one, they found that the hardware/software combo can cut energy consumption by about half (give or take a little depending on the number of antennas used).
Of course, as Tech Review points out, if everyone doesn't run the BeamAdapt software on their devices then one spoilsport with a beamsteering device could cause problems for everyone in the vicinity. And considering the difficulties inherent in making something like BeamAdapt a universal standard, that's a significant obstacle. Still, in an increasingly wireless world, energy savings of half are potentially huge.
Awesome idea. But has anyone addressed a simple byproduct of "Mobile" commuting, the fact that you are actually moving. Having a device scan and lock directions to cut power doesn't seem all that great of an idea if the user is moving. The article doesn't mention the effects of this new idea if someone was say.. on a train, in a car using a mobile hotspot or even just walking around. If I have to park my butt down in once spot to use my mobile device, it defeats the purpose of calling it "mobile"
Love the new CAPTCHA! Thanks PopSci!
Anyway, ++ to the above. If it means that my netbook's connection drops at the coffee shop when I get up to get a refill, or my Skype call drops on an iPod at home because I'm pacing, I can't express my feeling of do not want. I'll gladly take a slightly shorter battery life.
it's a brand new thought/idea/technology/technique... do you really thing they got EVERY SINGLE POSSIBLE aspect of it COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY perfect once they've actually figured out how to do it?
don't be so critical if you're not the one perfecting the procedure
lnwolf41 With the gps system everyone has on their smart phones it should be able to follow signal strength and automaticly switch towers as you move without losing your call, and as for pacing I doubt moving ten feet either way is going to make a difference in which tower your using.
One other factor is that the more we go wireless the more towers/ antennas will be used so you need less power to send a signal a shorter distance.
Finally no more bots... well hopefully.
@Inwolf41: But the GPS antenna being on constantly is itself a massive power sink.
Only satellite phones have true GPS. I wish people and companies would stop advertising cell phone triangulation software and techniques as GPS. It's not even assisted-GPS, since GPS stands for GLOBAL positioning SATELLITES... try that in Greenland the next time you're there...
Since the article claimed that "the device continues to broadcast in every direction anyhow.", they're trying to put this method into hand-held devices, most of which have accelerometers... so, focus-beam when acceleration is minimal, and broadcast in a complete sphere when it's not. Saving energy where we can is always a good idea.
"Finally no more bots... well hopefully."
Oh, don't worry. They'll just farm it out to Amazons mechanical turk service, where idiots will manually type spam messages for 10 cents a pop.