News That Bytes #2
We are all doomed. Every single one of us who uses a Smartphone or indeed any portable electronic device will never be able to realise the full potential of the available technology. Why is this? Will the best technology not fit in our ever slimmer phones? No, the answer is batteries. This week in News That Bytes we will be discussing batteries and their frustrating habit of ruining our experience with our favourite devices.
You may or may not be aware of a phenomenon known as Moore’s Law. Without going into specifics, it is the idea that computing power/technology doubles every 2 years. In reality this often means the same processing ability in half the space. This is why huge computers that filled entire rooms in the 60’s have the same power as your average calculator. This is fantastic! With computers increasing in power at an exponential rate it is only a matter of time before we all have robot servants performing our every whim. Well either that or robot masters like in the Matrix, but either way there are no limits to what we can achieve. Except all electronic devices need electricity, and that has to come from somewhere.
Desktop computers, or any electronic device that remains plugged in have access to as much power as they need, for as long as they need it. Your phone on the other hand needs a battery to work. Batteries, unlike most other parts of computing, do not follow Moore’s Law. They improve, but only in incremental amounts. The current battery in your laptop or phone is using a technology that has only been moderately improved in the last 20 years. As you can imagine with consumer technology increasing so fast, and battery technology increasing so slowly, there is an ever increasing gap between what our phones should be able to do, and what they actually can do. I remember when my old phone used to last a week between charges; with my current one I am lucky to get a full 24 hours. Companies are starting to get creative with solutions, Apple has recently patented a design for a battery that is soft, so it can be moulded into any spare space inside the phones case. Samsung have promised that any phones released this year will have better battery life last year’s efforts. The problem is that people want consistently better hardware for a smaller size and with battery technology where it is, it simply is not possible.
It has been a good day so far…..
I hate charging my phone, and to make matters worse, the power cord is far too short to comfortably use the phone at the same time. I own a Smartphone so I can use the internet, but if I have a day of medium internet usage I always get a battery warning before I go to bed (usually after dinner, so I suppose that is a plus). Smart phones are fantastic gadgets, but almost every cool feature wastes even more battery. GPS, sucks the battery dry, Wi-fi, not as bad but still drinks plenty. Internet usage hurts, both downloading data, and of course the screen uses plenty (I wish more websites used a black or dark background, it would make a world of difference in battery usage). Without these features we basically have a Nokia brick, but still using more battery due to the screen which is both bigger and colour. Batteries are so important to these sorts of technologies that something needs to be done soon, or we will all be carrying around backup chargers everywhere we go.
There is some good news, people are throwing money at the problem. The US Department of Energy has spent $36 million on battery research since 2010 and that is only one example of many. Unfortunately, as I have already stated battery research is a slow business and by the time any big advances come it will already be too late. We will all be wandering around with giant extension cords to power our latest devices. Maybe it would be best to emulate the just emulate the Matrix after all. Use our body as a battery to power our Smartphone implant. All we would need is a method to keep our energy levels up, like chocolate and red cordial.
And that is this weeks… News That Bytes.