One of the reasons that wearable Health Tech devices have become so valuable is that they can take advantage of wireless data communications technology. Driven by demand for features in smartphones, tiny wireless transceivers have become inexpensive. Different wireless standards have different features. For example, Zigbee is designed to transmit very small amounts of data with very little energy use. WiFi can stream enough data to view a high-definition video at distances up to 300 feet, but it requires more energy. Bluetooth has data rates that fall between these other standards, with a smaller range and lower power requirements than WiFi. And Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) uses even less power.
A Chinese company named Rockchip hopes to change the balance. According to a company press release, they have created a chip that provides WiFi at an 85% power savings. This puts it on the same scale as BLE. This means that the chip can be powered by a simple coin cell battery. According to the company, a set of AAA batteries could last for 35 years. The energy savings was made possible by creating a system-on-a-chip (SoC) design that improved transceiver efficiency while exchanging data. The chip’s power consumption is adjusted on the fly based on what it is doing at any instant, and it is able to remain in a listening mode even when the host processor is shut down to save power.
This new chip could make WiFi practical for a whole range of devices where power consumption is concerned, especially wearable devices. The higher bandwidth of a WiFi connection means that more data can be transmitted and received, which could lead to richer user interfaces, more efficient transfer of larger data sets, and entirely new applications. The chip is scheduled to be available in the third quarter of this year.