Tag Archives: Battery Life

NASA chip reflects Wi-Fi to improve your wearable device’s battery life

This new technology could reduce the power needed to send information from wearables.

Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and UCLA are currently working on a Wi-Fi reflector chip that they say would drastically improve battery life in wearable devices by reducing the power needed to transmit or receive information to computers and cellular and Wi-Fi networks.


The chip uses existing wireless signals to reflect information back to a router or cell tower instead of the wearable generating the signal itself. According to Adrian Tang of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, not only does this drastically reduce power consumption, the solution also transmits Wi-Fi signal three times faster than traditional Wi-Fi.

Information transmitted to and from a wearable device is encoded as 1s and 0s, just like data on a computer. When incoming energy is absorbed by the circuit, that’s a “0,” and if the chip reflects that energy, that’s a “1.” This simple switch mechanism uses very little power and allows for the fast transfer of information between a wearable device and a computer, smartphone, tablet or other technology capable of receiving the data.

Tang, who is collaborating on the project with UCLA’s M.C. Frank Chang, says one of the challenges is that the wearable device isn’t the only object in a room that reflects signals. Keep in mind, there can be walls, floors, ceilings and furniture, among several other things. The chip in the wearable needs to differentiate between the real Wi-Fi signal and the reflection from the background. To overcome this, Tang and Chang developed a wireless silicon chip that constantly senses and suppresses background reflections, enabling the Wi-Fi signal to be transmitted without interference from surrounding objects.

The technologists have tested the system at distances of up to 20 feet. At about 8 feet, they achieved a data transfer rate of 330 megabits per second, which is about three times the current Wi-Fi rate, using about a thousand times less power than a regular Wi-Fi link.


“You can send a video in a couple of seconds, but you don’t consume the energy of the wearable device. The transmitter externally is expending energy – not the watch or other wearable,” Chang explains.

A base station and Wi-Fi service ares still required in order for the system to work. Since power is taken from the base station, computer, Wi-Fi or other network supporting the chip, the source will need to be plugged in or have long battery life. Researchers are working to minimize those energy limitations, but Tang is optimistic that the solution will be commercialized. For example, astronauts and robotic spacecraft could potentially use this technology to transmit images at a lower cost to their precious power supplies. This might also allow more images to be sent at a time.

The patent application for this technology is jointly owned by the California Institute of Technology, which manages JPL for NASA and UCLA. You can read more about it here.

[Images: NASA/JPL-Caltech]

LG Chem’s reveals hexagonal batteries for round smartwatches

LG Chem is bringing 25% more battery capacity to wearable devices.

When it comes to wearables, especially smartwatches, one of the biggest obstacles to overcome so far has been battery life. Given that the devices are adorned to the wrist, size and space are often limited. As a result, batteries are required to adhere to certain form factors in order to properly nestle inside.


Open up any mobile gadget today and chances are that its rechargeable battery boasts a square or rectangular shape. With a restricted amount of space, such a shape may not always be the best option when it comes to a circular watch. This leaves quite a bit of wasted room that could be filled by battery. In an attempt to solve this conundrum, LG Chem has come up with a solution: a coin-sized, hexagonal battery.

This new innovation, which sports a design that allows for it to cover more surface area, reportedly improves capacity as much as 25% compared to its rectangular counterparts. With the charge of most smartwatches somewhere around one day, this battery will prove to be favorable for manufacturers looking to give their device a little more juice and push the boundaries of heavy usage.

Even better, this is only the beginning. LG has shared plans for other unusually-shapped batteries, which include an L-shaped one and a rectangular model with a hole in the middle, that are said to improve the running time of gadgets without compromising their aesthetics. And it couldn’t come at a better time, as reports suggests that smartwatches will make up at least 40% of the wearable market by 2016.

Growing up, we were always told to abide by the “KISS” principle — or “Keep it simple, stupid” — which states that most systems work best if their design doesn’t entail any unnecessary complexities. This also applies to wearable technology, as LG has demonstrated. In order to take these body-adorned devices to the next level, innovation is needed everywhere, from MCU and screen power to wireless and battery capabilities.