HELSINKI, Finland – A couple of weeks ago we caught up with Jussi Ruutu, the Research leader for the Energy and Power Management (EPM) team at the Nokia Research Center in Helsinki, to get his take on what makes a great concept device (watch his video vox pop). Working at the coal face of all things battery and power related, Jussi also talked to us about the challenges faced when innovating in this space whilst keeping one eye firmly fixed on the horizon. Read on to get his expert opinion and an inside peek at some of the techniques the NRC team are using to explore better power management solutions.
What are the biggest challenges when innovating for the future to improve battery life for mobile devices?
Jussi: “Battery life is simply a question of two issues – how much energy you have and how quickly you are spending it. The first question relates to the size and energy density of the energy storage. The bigger the battery, the more energy you have. But then you have also more weight and volume to carry around. So increasing energy density could allow the same size and weight but more energy. The second question relates effectively to more energy efficient devices and also to the ways of using them. As always, you typically give up something to gain something so it’s a question of trade-offs. There are several challenges related to this category:
• One of the biggest challenges of power consumption relates to the wide spectrum of activities that you can do with your mobile device. Some activities simply take much more power than others. So, where should I spend my energy?
• The fast evolution of applications, use cases and the ways of using the device also mean that devices are often used in quite unexpected ways. So we should prepare for the unexpected when optimising the power consumption.
• It is also the question of expectations. Should I have the same web browsing time with my smartphone as with my laptop?
• Moreover, it is increasingly a question of communities. You can install whatever applications on your mobile device. But did the software programmer implement his/her code in a power-efficient way? And does the consumer use the application in the most energy-efficient way?”
What opportunities are there related to power, and where is your research taking you?
Jussi: “You cannot make an omelet without breaking eggs, but perhaps the omelet is not always the right choice for dinner. We are promoting Holistic Energy and Power Management. This means simply that we are looking at the big picture, not just a detailed part of the device and its usage. So instead of looking at how to reduce the power consumption of a WLAN chipset, we are figuring ways to keep the WLAN idle or to allow it to go to sleep as optimally as possible. Or perhaps you can do some activities simultaneously because 1 + 1 is sometimes less than 2. Or perhaps you should burn energy fast in one part of the device so that another part can get to sleep much faster.”
What are the most exciting alternative power sources for mobile devices and why?
Jussi: “There is lots of research around the world going on related to alternative power sources. There is perhaps no one clear global winner but rather new sources that are useful in different contexts. And you can always combine various technologies. But be aware about the various power levels of different devices. You may easily power a wrist watch with a solar panel, but for recharging a mobile phone, you will need a much bigger solar panel or some new solar panel technologies.”
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