Wi-Fi is a battery hog. When stuck among a bunch of other Wi-Fi devices, most mobile gear will keep polling the access point for data while the other devices get their share. As Duke Today notes, “this means the battery drainage in downloading a movie in Manhattan is far higher than downloading the same movie in a farmhouse in the Midwest.”
New software, called SleepWell, puts the device to sleep while it’s waiting its turn, essentially allowing devices to grab everything they want at once and then hand off the download to the next device. Designed by grad student Justin Manweiler and his advisor, Romit Roy Choudhury, the system can add hours to the average battery.
Manweiler described the system by analogy: “Big cities face heavy rush hours as workers come and leave their jobs at similar times. If work schedules were more flexible, different companies could stagger their office hours to reduce the rush. With less of a rush, there would be more free time for all, and yet, the total number of working hours would remain the same.”
“The same is true of mobile devices trying to access the Internet at the same time,” Manweiler said. “The SleepWell-enabled WiFi access points can stagger their activity cycles to minimally overlap with others, ultimately resulting in promising energy gains with negligible loss of performance.”
The technology is in its early stages right now but some mobile manufacturers, including Nokia, are looking into implementing it.