Long in the Bluetooth: Sussex Scientists Develop a More Efficient Way to Transmit Data Between Our Devices

University of Sussex researchers have developed a more energy-efficient alternative to transmit data that could potentially replace Bluetooth in mobile phones and other tech devices. With more and more of us owning smart phones and wearable tech, researchers at the University of Sussex have found a more efficient way of connecting our devices and improving battery life. Applied to wearable devices, it could even see us unlocking doors by touch or exchanging phone numbers by shaking hands.

Professor Robert Prance and Professor Daniel Roggen, of the University of Sussex, have developed the use of electric waves, rather than electromagnetic waves, for a low-power way to transmit data at close range, while maintaining the high throughput needed for multimedia applications.

Bluetooth, Wifi, and 5G currently rely on electromagnetic modulation, a form of wireless technology which was developed over 125 years ago. In the late 19th Century, the focus was to transmit data over long distances using electromagnetic waves. By contrast, electric field modulation uses short-range electric waves, which consumes much less power than Bluetooth.

As we tend to be in close proximity to our devices, electric field modulation offers a proven, more efficient method of connecting our devices, enabling longer lasting battery life when streaming music to headphones, taking calls, using fitness trackers, or interacting with smart home tech.

The development could advance how we use tech in our day to day lives and evolve a wide range of futuristic applications too. For example, a bracelet using this technology could enable phone numbers to be exchanged simply by shaking hands or a door could be unlocked just by touching the handle.

Daniel Roggen, Professor of Engineering and Design at the University of Sussex, explains:

“We no longer need to rely on electromagnetic modulation, which is inherently battery hungry. We can improve the battery life of wearable technology and home assistants, for example, by using electric field modulation instead of Bluetooth. This solution will not only make our lives much more efficient, but it also opens novel opportunities to interact with devices in smart homes.

“The technology is also low cost, meaning it could be rolled out to society quickly and easily. If this were mass produced, the solution can be miniaturised to a single chip and cost just a few pence per device, meaning that it could be used in all devices in the not-too-distant future.”

The University of Sussex researchers are now seeking industrial partnerships to help further miniaturize the technology for personal devices.

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