A research team collaboration between NASA and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), could see a new Wi-Fi chip with better signal-emitting capabilities, lower energy usage and faster transfer speeds hit the wearable technology market.
This Wi-Fi chip is the creation of Adrian Tang, a researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and Mau-Chung Frank Chang, a professor at UCLA.
Using 100 times less power than traditional methods and extending battery life, the research team envisions that the Wi-Fi chip could be placed into mobile, wearable electronics.
"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)," Tang said in a statement.
Your smartphone works by sending a signal to your router, and the router then responds and sends a brand, new signal back. This Wi-Fi chip actually reflects a constant signal sent from a specialized router, so it doesn’t need to send out its own unique signal.
“Because you’re only imprinting on a Wi-Fi signal, you’re not generating it, you don’t need power,” Tang said to Popular Science.
And the low energy wasn''t found to impede data transfer rates. Testing the speed of file transfer using this technique in the lab on mock wearable technology, the researchers say that they have reached speeds of 330 megabits per second (40 MB/s). This is impressive as it’s faster than most Wi-Fi routers in the home.
The greatest struggle, explained Tang, was determining which signal was being sent back as the first signal is also bouncing back from every corner of the room.
“When you send a signal to the room, the whole room reflects back to you,” Tang said. “So you need to figure out what’s coming from the wearable and what’s coming from the background and get rid of the background.”
To combat this, the research team also developed a specialized router hardware that not only sends the initial signal but also has the smart tech capability of being able to detect specifically the data that is reflected back.
NASA and UCLA are currently in discussions with a commercial partner to bring this technology to the general public. And NASA thinks that the machinery might even be useful for spacecraft communications in future.
[H/T: Popular Science]