Researchers at NASA, in partnership with UCLA scientists, announced that they are designing a Wi-Fi reflector chip that dramatically improves battery performance in wearable devices. The chip’s low power requirements when transmitting or receiving information from networks and other computers are a result of using existing wireless signals to reflect data back to a router rather than generating the signal itself. The genesis of the chip came from a NASA technology that involved steering beams electronically to scan planets.
Despite the promise of the chip, obstacles remain. Since walls, floors, and ceilings reflect Wi-Fi signals, it’s necessary for the chip to filter out extraneous Wi-Fi noise. The designers are also working on streamlining the chip, so that multiple users can use it without interference. And, since the chip uses power from the base station, rather than itself, the source needs to be plugged in, or have a strong battery. Despite these difficulties, the researchers are optimistic that this new technology will eventually by commercialized.