Sunday 18 September 2011

Improving Smartphone Battery Life with Subconscious Mode

Even when you feel like you’ve barely used your smartphone over the course of a particularly slow day, is it common to find your battery power draining in spite of having taken advantage of every energy saving tip in the book? As you likely know, even when your phone isn’t being actively used, it still searches for open channels and networks while awaiting incoming signals such as voice calls, text messages, and push alerts. On a particularly busy network, this “idle listening” function may be even more taxing on your smartphone battery life than anticipated. Over time, it adds up (and up and up).

Researchers Kang Shin and Xinyu Zhangat at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor have devised a plot to deal with this wasteful (and costly) loss of energy by creating what amounts to a subconscious mode that could save enough energy to extend smartphone battery life by up to 54 percent. This subconscious mode, dubbed E-MiLi (Energy-Minimizing Idle Listening), would still give users the benefit of listening for incoming signals so important messages wouldn’t go unheeded, but it would adhere to the work smarter, not harder philosophy.

While the smartphone is idle, E-MiLi drops its Wi-Fi card clock to 1/16th of its normal frequency, and then returns it to full speed as incoming information is detected. Shin says: “We came up with a clever idea. Usually, messages come with a header, and we thought the phone could be enabled to detect this, as you can recognize that someone is calling your name even if you’re 90 percent asleep.”

And while this E-MiLi technology would be compatible with today’s smartphones, for wide adoption of E-MiLi to take place, Wi-Fi chipset manufacturers would have to be on board with using the team’s firmware modifications to make this possible.

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