This post is part of the Roadmap To The Future Series. Roadmap To The Future explores innovative industry trends and breakthroughs in science, entertainment, and technology. This series is sponsored by Verizon.
It doesn’t matter if you choose Android or iPhone. BlackBerry or Windows Phone.
Your smartphone’s battery stinks.
As phone technology gets develops with faster processors and high-speed wireless data connections, battery technology is largely the same. We still depend on lithium-ion batteries that lose their ability to hold a full charge over time and often can’t supply a full day’s use for a typical smartphone user.
The biggest culprit is the radio that delivers wireless data over WiFi or your carrier’s network, according to Joel Dawson, the CTO of a company called Eta Devices that has a method for better managing the way mobile devices consume power.
“Instead of energy being put to good use, a lot is wasted as heat,” Dawson said. “Smartphones are built to be beautiful and fit in your hand, but that limits how much heat it can dissipate.”
There are two major ways to get around the problem: Create a better battery or create a method for phones to use current battery power more efficiently.
Eta Devices is working on the latter.
Dawson said his company’s process can intelligently assess how much power your wireless radio is using and adjust how much power your phone needs to pull in from the battery. Normally, the battery just keeps the phone powered and connected with little regard to how much radio use is actually required.
Depending on how you use your phone, you could see up to twice the battery life. And that’s without anyone inventing a better battery. Dawson said he can’t discuss what companies will use the process, but did hint that we could see it applied by the end of this year or early next year.
Things get a bit fuzzier when it comes to actually building a better battery though. The chemistry in lithium-ion batteries that stores a charge is pretty much the same as it’s always been. However, there is some work being done to alter that chemistry so batteries charge up faster and last longer.
Dr. Harold Kung, a professor at Northwestern University, made a lot of headlines a few years ago when he published that he figured out a a new chemical process that extends the life of a lithium-ion battery 10-fold and cuts the charge time down to about 15 minutes.
But don’t get too excited. In an interview, Kung said it will be a long time before his method becomes perfected and commercialized.
The good news is the short-term answer to solving our battery woes could be coming soon, namely by managing the way phones sip power from the battery. The better news is that once new battery technology is available, power management processes like the one Eta Devices has can work in tandem with it for even more impressive battery life one day.
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