Tech Weekly: 02.29.2016

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While new and flashy developments steal the headlines, technology and science know all too well that small incremental change drives us forward. This week on Tech Weekly we’re focusing on those smaller changes, that could have a huge impact on our day to day lives. Lets look at connection, communication and … conservation?


WIFI Might Start Helping You Conserve Power


WIFI is quite literally everywhere in our daily lives, connecting computers and other devices in large networks. Allowing us to use our phones to stream movies and watch youtube at work, or browse Amazon at the coffee shop.

Of course this does have its downsides, we’re all quite familiar with the “only 20% battery remaining” notification that pops up around 1 in the afternoon. WIFI consumes a significant amount of energy resources on our devices, often leading to shorter battery life.

The team at the University of Washington created a method that would allow the generation of WIFI transmissions at 10,000 times less power compared to conventional methods. Co-author Shyam Gollakota commented on the project saying: “We wanted to see if we could acheive WIFI transmissions using almost no power at all.”

As such, the team dubbed the new technology Passive WIFI. This technology is so efficient that it is primed to potentially upset existing low-power wireless platforms such as Bluetooth Low Energy and Zigbee.

Passive WIFI itself signals at a bit rates of up to 11 megabits per second, these speeds are lower than the maximum current WIFI standards allow. However these devices are able to connect to existing WIFI infrastructure, and still transmit 11 times the speed of Bluetooth.

While this has fantastic implications on the battery life of our smartphones and other connected devices, but they also make a major push at the Internet of Things. Allowing more devices to connect without the intense need for a power supply.



While devices have constantly been improving on their battery consumption to be more efficient, this definitely marks the next step towards that goal.




Fiber-Optic Speeds, No Fiber?

optimal connectionA team of researchers from Hiroshima University working with Panasonic announced a terahertz (THz) transmitter that could make data transfers of ten gigabits per second. This would be possible over multiple channels at around 300 GHz. This device would be able to sustain speeds before only attainable with fiber-optic cables, meaning that the total data transfer would exceed 100 gigabits per second!

The transmitter is made in the form of a silicon CMOS integrated circuit, allowing it to easily adapted to commercial use. With its ability to be easily implemented this could easily revolutionize as the data rates are easily 10 times that of current technology.

Utilization of the THz band however is another advantage, as the band has not been implemented in wireless communication. Leaving it open to capitalize on all of the higher frequencies that it is capable. Leaving it in a fantastic position to sidestep its competition.

The device was unveiled at the ‘International Solid-State Circuit Conference [ISSCC] 2016′, held in San Francisco, California. Unfortunately no standards or protocols dictating the use of THz band exists, and won’t be discussed until the World Radiocommunication Conference [WRC] in 2019.

While this will slow its implementation until at least until after 2019, however, while the team waits they are already moving onto a second project. They are refocusing their efforts to implement these speeds into wireless connection.

Now that speeds of terabits per second seem feasible excitement around the technology is abuzz, however Professor Minoru Fujishima says it best:

“Today, we usually talk about wireless data-rates in megabits per second or gigabits per second. But I foresee we’ll soon be talking about terabits per second. That’s what THz wireless technology offers. Such extreme speeds are currently confined in optical fibers. I want to bring fiber-optic speeds out into the air, and we have taken an important step toward that goal,”




Buying a SmartPhone With Pocket Change

Connection in IndiaIn our 21st century world, we increasingly reliant on our connection to the internet. Which is a major problem in countries like India, whom have a large populous, many living in poverty.

India’s government recognized the need and benefits of providing this vital connection to the masses, and it seems ‘Ringing Bells‘ a handset (a.k.a cell phone) manufacturer has tapped into this need. Not only has Ringing Bells been able to fill this niche market, they were able to manufacture the phone for so cheap they can sell each phone for $4 USD.

The device named Freedom 251, is a huge step to a connected India, as it is exceedingly affordable to lower income citizens of the sub-continent. The idea (like the name implies) to provide the freedom of connection for merely 251 rupees.

There is some hesitance to the product however, another part of the push to empower India included the launch of the Askash tablet. A piece of technology made for underprivileged students, it was subsidized by the government but was ultimately unsuccessful due to quality concerns.

The main worry however is that the phone might indeed be a high quality device only costing 251 rupees up front, but then you will be forced into a contract with the carrier and into an installment plan.  This is really the only question remaining that will decide if Freedom 251 is a successful enterprise or just another broken screen (dream?).





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