WiFi is a wonder of modern technology; it’s hard to imagine life today without it. That’s not to say it doesn’t have a few flaws, namely the power it drains from our devices. Despite the best efforts of engineers, wireless internet still sucks up a lot of battery life. But for those of us despairing as our devices die, there is hope: and it’s called passive WiFi.
Scientists from the University of Washington are developing a form of WiFi that requires 10,000 times less power to function than current methods. In traditional WiFi, it’s the analog part of radio transmissions that drain your precious power and wipe your battery life. Passive WiFi succeeds by decoupling the digital operations from the analog parts. All the operations previously performed by the analog side are handled by a single plugged-in device. The result is an efficient WiFi that doesn’t make a big dent in your battery life.
This feat is achieved by a collection of sensors that produce packets of WiFi information. Devices can pick up the sensors from a distance of up to 100 feet. Best of all, because the sensors create actual WiFi packets of information there is no lengthy or troublesome setup. All WiFi-enabled devices can begin taking advantage of this new network the minute it’s turned on.
Passive WiFi is an innovation that could expand the wireless world, particularly in places with low power reserves. Furthermore, its uncomplicated setup provides an easy and effective way to get online in an increasingly challenging digital culture — all without putting a strain on your battery life.
Unfortunately passive WiFi isn’t without its drawbacks. Key among them is speed: although passive WiFi is still significantly faster than Bluetooth (11 times faster, to be precise), it pales in comparison to the most high-speed wireless connections available. Scientists are working to improve the speed and reliability of their passive WiFi network, determined to create a world where all our devices — from phones and tablets to smart homes and security — runs entirely on WiFi.