A battery-less Smartphone? Posted Jul 13, 2017 by Ruchika Sharma

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18 - battery less phone

A mobile phone is one device we can’t imagine living without today. These phones have come a long way from being just a calling device to now serving as an anytime, anywhere camera or even allowing us to replace our laptops for several chores.

The latest challenge mobile companies are facing is the battery. The smartphones are so addictive and everyone is just so engrossed in the device. The concern has switched to the larger and longer batteries to increase the battery life while keeping the sleekness intact.

Now, this new smartphone does not need a battery to perform.  Amazed! But yes, in place of a battery, this new cell phone gathers the power required from its surroundings, i.e., through radio signals around or the light rays. A couple of researchers in a group have made this incredible exploration.  The cell phone will run on a few microwatts which it will harvest itself.

Researched were able to set up a successful Skype call with the battery less phone, which clearly implies that the off-the-shelf product can receive and transmit the speech signals and connect with the base station. Moreover, this cell phone is just a prototype, for now, and is expected for mass production soon. 

Mr. Shyam Gollakota, an associate professor at University of Washington (Computer Science and Engineering) and Study co-author, stated proudly that they have built the first operational cell phone which runs on almost zero battery.

How does the phone function?

A study of the paper co-authored by Mr. Shyam Gollakota, titled “Proceedings of the Association for Computing Machinery on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies” explains that the battery-less phone uses very slight vibrations in a microphone or the speaker part during the call session and the antenna connected to the speakers and microphone converts the vibration caused motion into analog radio signal. These standard analog radio signals are transmitted by the base station of the cellular system.

This process almost consumes no power by encoding the speech signals in radio signal unlike the hefty energy consumption step of conversion of analog sound signals into a digital format that most modern cellular phone understands. In the prototype device, the user has to choose between “transmitting” or “receiving” mode by pressing the button, which enables the phone to perform the operation accordingly. In addition, researchers were able to receive Skype incoming calls, dial the calls, and hold the callers while on a different call. The device still needs some amount of power for functioning though.

The Road Map Ahead

The visionary concept and innovative technology might impact future devices. Research associate and co-author Vamsi Talla quoted that we can expect the future cellular towers having their base station technology embedded in wi-fi routers. The research team is also working on improvising the operational range and encoding the speech signals in encrypted form to make the system secure. Moreover, the team is also working on the visual display possibilities for the device that will use low power e-ink screen display.

The National Science Foundation, US and Google Research Awards (GRA) has invested in the futuristic research assignment.

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