Microsoft Planning 7-Day Phone Batteries

SAN FRANCISCO -- MIT Technology Review Digital Summit -- Microsoft is figuring out how to make mobile phone batteries last longer. How much longer? Try a week...

Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)'s Research team is looking into several techniques for extending battery life, said senior researcher Ranveer Chandra here at the MIT summit. First, Microsoft is looking to enable developers to find out which components of their mobile apps use the most power, and tune the code to be more efficient. These profiling tools are built into Microsoft's Visual Studio 2013 application development software.

Phones can also extend battery life by offloading compute functions to routers and the cloud, Chandra said.

Further out, phones will use a technique Microsoft calls "Somniloquy" -- which means talking in your sleep -- to allow power-hungry cores to intelligently offload computations onto less power-intensive cores, while the power-hungry cores go to sleep.

And even further out, Microsoft wants to replace existing phone batteries with multiple batteries with different properties for different conditions, Chandra said.

Phone batteries are now individual reservoirs of power optimized for average environmental conditions and current requirements. But battery life depends on the type of computing being done, the chemical properties of the battery, and environmental conditions such as temperature. Future phones will have multiple small batteries with different chemical properties that function well under different conditions, and the operating system will intelligently shift between batteries to prolong battery life.

Chandra compared the technique of managing multiple batteries with different properties to SDN -- he called it "software-defined batteries."

Battery life has been a bottleneck for phone usage. While phones get exponentially smarter, more powerful, and cheaper, batteries have only twice as much capacity as they did 15 years ago, Chandra said.

Ideas from the battery project have already made it into Microsoft products. In addition to the Visual Basic tool, Windows 8's WiFi software uses the energy saving techniques.

I'd like to say more about this, but I need to go plug in my phone.

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to [email protected]

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sarahthomas1011 6/10/2014 | 10:43:54 AM
24/7 This feature would be more important than most of the other bells and whistles discussed today...
Carol Wilson 6/10/2014 | 11:13:53 AM
Re: 24/7 I agree - this is still an issue for anyone who uses their phone for multiple purposes and still need to have it as a full-time phone. 
Phil_Britt 6/10/2014 | 12:07:28 PM
Re: 24/7 As you note, power or lack thereof, is a huge issue for phones, tablets and laptops -- just look for people scrambling for outlets at a Wi-Fi hotspot TIP: Always carry a power strip.

Any company that can solve this issue will certainly have a compelling reason for someone to buy their product. Some laptop manufacturers have batteries that last much longer than those of the previous generation, but with Wi-Fi, etc., drawing power, to get even half a day without a recharge is difficult. Smaller devices, with smaller batteries, have even more issues.
Liz Greenberg 6/10/2014 | 1:36:40 PM
Re: 24/7 OK I am going to go really old school here...how about letting folks carry an extra battery just like the old days.  With the completely locked down mobile phones today, most can't even be opened by the user.  So you can stick on another unwieldy battery on top of the existing one or just carry your own power strip.  Give power to the people...literally and figuratively.
MordyK 6/10/2014 | 3:31:23 PM
Innovation borrowing The resulting extension of battery life is remarkable. But I see an important lesson to be learned in that it's largely inspired by how other fields have already been doing this for awhile, per the SDN example - although Amazon AWS and plenty of others have been at this for even longer. It is therefore important to always keep on the lookout for inspirations from other sectors no matter how distant they are, and not wait 10 years for them to break through.
kq4ym 6/10/2014 | 7:27:42 PM
Re: 24/7 It would seem to just pack another battery along would to the trick, or carry a charging cord everywhere. But the idea of customizing different batteries into a deivce seems like a good compromise to be able to extent the use at least a bit longer, although maybe at the cost of a little weight and a few dollars more.
lanbrown 6/11/2014 | 1:19:32 AM
That is here today "Further out, phones will use a technique Microsoft calls "Somniloquy" -- which means talking in your sleep -- to allow power-hungry cores to intelligently offload computations onto less power-intensive cores, while the power-hungry cores go to sleep."


Well, that sounds just like big.LITTLE from ARM.  They have dynamic voltage scaling as well as being able to put cores or even an entire cluster to sleep.  A big advantage of the ARM solution, the OS and the chip are aware and the correct CPU type is used for the task rather than the above approach where they are trying to do this more in hardware to make the decision.  That opens up some issues in that the wrong task could be on the wrong core type and the hardware and software is not working together.  This is Microsoft and their history shows they take what another does and un-improve it.
Ariella 6/11/2014 | 12:36:29 PM
Re: That is here today " un-improve" I like the way you put that, @Ianbrown. We wouldn't go so far as to say degrade, just unimproved. 
Mitch Wagner 6/11/2014 | 1:37:08 PM
Re: 24/7 The phone's going to be bulky if you have a replaceable battery. The battery needs a sturdier housing in the phone if it's going to be removed. Either way -- replaceable battery or external battery case -- you've got bulk.

I don't have a problem with using an external battery case with my iPhone. I DO have a problem that the battery life on the iPhone is so bad that it doesn't go a full day on a charge even WITH the external battery case. 
Mitch Wagner 6/11/2014 | 1:38:19 PM
Re: 24/7 Carrying a power strip wherever you go will make you more popular than carrying beer to a college fraternity.
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