Wi-Fi napping could help double battery life on smartphones

By on July 4, 2011, 9:00 AM

Justin Manweiler, a computer science graduate student at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering, claims to have found a way to dramatically improve battery life of mobile devices with a small alteration to Wi-Fi technology. The proposed solution is called SleepWell and works by allowing devices to take short 'naps' while waiting to transfer data.

As Scientific American explains, mobile devices waste a lot of energy searching for a Wi-Fi signal and then staying connected while overtaxed wireless networks ferry data to and from them. This gets even worse when there are many devices vying for the same wireless signal. Manweiler uses an analogy to describe the current process:

"When workers leave their offices en masse at the end of the day, they clog up the roads and rail lines. If these workers staggered the times they left, the transit systems would be less crowded, and it would take less time to get home," the report reads. "Similarly, if mobile devices took their turn accessing WiFi access points, data would move faster and these devices would use less energy."

Manweiler's software embraces this idea by detecting when several Wi-Fi devices that are actively using the network and puts their Wi-Fi radio in sleep mode while they're waiting for data. The sleep periods are so short that the user remains unaware and unaffected -- apparently they happen many times a second. And since SleepWell is intended to run on access points (like routers), your smartphone and laptop could benefit from it without having to do anything at all.

The extent to which battery life would be prolonged varies depending on the situation. However, during testing, Manweiler found that SleepWell could double the battery life of mobile phones. We assume it will be most noticeable in crowded public hotspots, though it's also worth noting that Wi-Fi is not the only battery drain you have on a phone.




User Comments: 5

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jobeard jobeard, TS Ambassador, said:

yea, Apple saw that approach and used it to improve battery life,

but look at the networking results of reconnecting . . .

Guest said:

If you have an Android phone, simply download the FREE app called Power Scheduler. This enables you to set specific times to activate/deactivate some features of your phone. I currently have it configured to have my WiFi turned off after I leave home for work, and also to turn it back on at around the time I get back home from work. I think you can configure settings for WiFi, Bluetooth, Plane Mode, and others. Definitely a must have app.

example1013 said:

Guest said:

If you have an Android phone, simply download the FREE app called Power Scheduler. This enables you to set specific times to activate/deactivate some features of your phone. I currently have it configured to have my WiFi turned off after I leave home for work, and also to turn it back on at around the time I get back home from work. I think you can configure settings for WiFi, Bluetooth, Plane Mode, and others. Definitely a must have app.

Yeah, not even close to the same thing.

MilwaukeeMike said:

example1013 said:

Yeah, not even close to the same thing.

But very cool, thanks for sharing! This sounds to me like 'Too good to be true' Most of us probably have wi-fi turned off anyway when we know there's no point to using it, like at work etc.

Guest said:

I don't see what's so significant with this... this is already covered in the network layers as packages are being sent and received, the network layer propagates the best route to send the packages to save power and energy... so I guess something sits ontop of that layer to determine if something is being sent or received then just sleeps on inactivity... ???

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