For the past couple of years, a certain amount of tech buzz has been circling around the IoT, more specifically, wearables. Perhaps, bored with the limited technology gains smartphones are showing as of late, as well as a decline in tablet interest, the IoT is where many are putting their focus. Alongside the larger tech companies in the industry, 3rd party vendors and tinkerers alike are all making a pitch for their presence in the arena of interconnected cloud-driven ‘smart’ devices or wearables.
During Microsoft’s developer conference last year, the company hinted at its intentions about getting involved with the Internet of Things wave. However, eight months went by without much public movement on Microsoft’s part. A few in-dash car demos were revisited as well as concepts of connected house and hotel rooms, but as for specific hardware and software solutions, Microsoft was light with details. Not until November of last had Microsoft offered a wearable device that would showcase its intent to enter the IoT’s market. This year at Build, Microsoft finally started putting their mosaic vision for the IoT into perspective. With Windows 10 being the core OS driving data collecting devices of various sizes to its growing cloud-connected services, Microsoft appears just as poised as any other company, to be a leader in the field. To be clear, the Microsoft Band doesn’t run Windows 10, as Microsoft intends for other IoT devices to do.
However, Microsoft does not seem content only to bring basic software and cloud connectivity to the table for its wearables. Microsoft Researchers are also looking at software tweaks that will extend the battery life of wearables. According to Microsoft Researchers, “Microsoft researchers have come up with a way to make wearable gadgets such as fitness trackers and smart watches go much longer between charges.”
Using tech from a project called WearDrive, Microsoft Researchers have found a way to offload most wearables larger energy-intensive storage operations to nearby paired smartphones using a regular WiFi or Bluetooth connection. This relationship leaves the wearable responsible for the smaller tasks that use less battery. Unlike older wearable designs that relied on ‘battery-saving tricks’ utilized in a smartphone paradigm, WearDrive engages an entirely different approach according to principal Microsoft Researcher, Ranveer Chandra.
As part of the Microsoft Researchers study, the team tested their design on an OS arguably known for its battery related issues, Android. Using an Android phone as well as a compatible wearable devices, the researchers were able to implement WearDrive and significantly improve the wearables performance and battery life. More importantly, the results had only minimal effect on the smartphone’s battery life. The researchers do not go into detail about how they define ‘minimal’, but they do conclude, the tradeoff was ‘worth it’. Specifically, WearDrive is a system designed so work with or without a smartphone nearby.
Microsoft’s researchers are working on implementing this tech into the current Microsoft Band and also welcome research projects from other universities and institutions to possible help future commercial products. If fully realized, the next generation as well as current generation Microsoft Bands could see a boost in battery life, that adds another compelling checkbox for wearables.