Wearable devices need power to operate. To make them run longer without having to recharge, designers have a number of options. They can use energy harvesting technology to scavenge energy from the ambient environment, but this can be expensive and may only produce small amounts of power. They can strap on a bigger battery, but this adds weight, size, and cost to the device. Microsoft is working on developing a Door Number Three for this problem; figure out ways to make the wearable device use less power. A lot less power!
The solution is called WearDrive, and it’s based on a clever concept. The power required for a given function could represent a major portion of the energy budget for a wearable device, but would also be a tiny portion of the power available in the user’s smartphone that serves as a companion to the device. If you could off-load the task from the wearable to the smartphone, you could extend the battery life of the wearable. This is the concept behind WearDrive. The system also uses battery-backed RAM for fast and efficient data storage.
A combination of Bluetooth and WiFi signals are used to create a low-power communication link between the two devices. This makes it possible for the phone to do more of the processing, and the wearable does little more than data collection and forwarding, and waits for alerts from the phone to wake it up for other tasks. The system can reduce the energy usage of a wearable device by more than 15 times, while adding only a “trivial” load to the smartphone. This sort of efficient power management could make wearable devices much more convenient to use, and could also lower energy requirements to the point where energy harvesting could provide a significant amount of the needed power.