My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: @NASAJPL and @UCLA Low-Power Wi-Fi Signal Processor reduces Wi-Fi for Months of Battery Power

Sunday, August 2, 2015

@NASAJPL and @UCLA Low-Power Wi-Fi Signal Processor reduces Wi-Fi for Months of Battery Power

NASA's JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) and UCLA are looking to ride the Wearables craze now sweeping America according to analyst IDC in my Geezam blog article “Analyst IDC logs Wearables Profitable in Q1 2015 Fitness Tracker Business”.

On Wednesday July 22nd 2015 they announced the developement of a Wi-Fi Signal Processor that uses a lot less power as reported in the article “NASA invents Wi-Fi Chip that requires virtually no Battery power”, published 27 JUL 2015, by David Witmer, IGN

NASA's JPL, located at CalTech (California Institute of Technology) made the announcement on their website in a Press Release entitled “A Wi-Fi Reflector Chip To Speed Up Wearables”, published JULY 22, 2015, NASA JPL.

The team consisting of Dr. Adrian Tang of NASA's JPL in Pasadena, California and Dr. M.C. Frank Chang at the UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) have being toiling away at the idea of low-powered Wi-Fi transmitters for Wearables.

Wi-Fi uses a technology closely related to CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access), which being related to spread Spectrum, uses a lot of power.

This achievement is significant as not only did they reduce the power consumption of the wearable involved in transmitting Data to the Router but they resulted in a significant speed boost of up to 330 Mbps over a distance of 2.44 m (8 ft).

This is on part with Wi-Fi Direct but at 100 times less power, making this technically a breakthrough in lower power Transmission, as the alternative, bigger, more power dense batteries, seemed unlikely.

So how exactly does this work? First, let me tell you about a cartoon named Laser Tag!

NASA's JPL and UCLA invent Low power Wi-Fi - How Laser Tag reduces Wi-Fi Power Consumption in a Wearable

It works by the absorption and reflection of Wi-Fi signal emitted by the Router for the purposes of Data transmission as explained in the article “NASA collaborates with UCLA for next-gen Wi-Fi chip”, published July 27, 2015 by Brad Jones, Digitaltrends

This is a lot like a game I used to play when I was six (6) years old at Midland Preparatory School which I attended in May Pen, Clarendon. In that game we use mirrors to flash light signals at each other, mimicking the cartoon Laser Tag.

Being impoverished but creative children, we used our imaginations instead and improvised. So no laser guns, but mirrors taken out of pencil sharpeners that back then came with a little circular mirror.

We then had everyone in the game wearing something shiny, like a reflector on their shirt pocket and as typical of the game of tag, we had a safe house or “dent” as we Jamaicans called it.

Then we'd run out and chase each other with the aim of shining the light directly into the reflective patch on our shirts. Because it's reflective, anyone who saw you reflector badge light up from under the shady tree aka the “dent” would know that you got tagged, as you couldn't cheat.

The Wi-Fi Signal Processor works on a similar principle of reflection to transmit Data back to the Router, which does all the heavy lifting of transmission, resulting in the Wearable just being a passive receiver as noted in the article “A Wi-Fi reflector chip to speed up wearables”, published July 23, 2015 by Elizabeth Landau, PhysOrg.

Whenever the reflector needs to transmit Data, merely reflects or absorbs of the incoming Wi-Fi signal, with absorbed energy representing a binary “0” and reflected energy representing a binary “1”.

The Wi-Fi Signal Processor uses a simple switch mechanism to switch between absorption and reflection, which the Router, whose software has been modified, can detect as transmission from the device.

But is that al for the Router? Or does it also need to use the Wi-Fi Signal Processor? And what about reflection from the Walls?

NASA Squelch Discriminator circuit sifts out reflection - Wearables potentially can last Months instead of days

The result is that the Wearable uses very little energy, only decoding the CDMA Signal while using reflection/absorption to transmit back binary “0” and binary “1” to the Router. Not only does this result in faster Data transmission but also reduced power usage by the Laptop, smart phone, tablet or smartwatch receiving the Data.

From August 2, 2015

It however, means that the Router has to be a device that's either plugged in or has a large battery source and fairly close by, which fits the Wi-Fi Direct scenario I mentioned earlier.

However the walls also reflect Wi-Fi signal, which would confuse the Wi-Fi Router that's receiving Data from the Wearable as reflection/absorption of its own Wi-Fi signal. To overcome this, Dr. Adrian Tang and Dr. M.C. Frank Chang developed a Squelch Discriminator circuit to differentiate between reflected Wi-Fi from the walls and reflected/absorbed Wi-Fi coming from the Laptop, smart phone, tablet or Smartwatch.

This suggests that the Wi-Fi Signal Processor with the Squelch Discriminator circuit has to be installed in BOTH the wearable device as well as the Routers. 

Wearables maker Apple and their Apple Watch already poised to take the No. 1 spot as explained in my blog article entitled “IDC Stats for Wearables in the First Quarter of 2015 - US$13 Mi Band Fitness Monitor Xiaomi No. 2 as Apple Watch to dominate Smartwatch segment by Q4 2015” could benefit from this tech, with their Smartwatch lasting for months instead of a single day.

Something tell me though, that NASA is gonna play with this in on the ISS (International Space Station) for awhile before they release this new proprietary tech for Commercial usages.

That way, it's space-tested and coming down to Earth to makes Wearables last for Days instead of hours!

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