Pushing Smartphones Until They’re Tired

Pushing Smartphones Until They’re Tired

A new method of power management aims to boost performance on phones and take full advantage of brawny processors.

The small size of smartphones leaves them unable to disperse the heat generated by stronger processors, limiting their speed, but researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan say “computational sprinting” may fix overheating smartphones.

The approach allows a processor to run at roughly 16 times its normal rate for a short period of time before slowing to allow a cool-down period, giving users bursts of incredibly fast speeds on their mobile devices.

“Normally, these devices are designed for sustained performance, so that they can run full bore forever,” said study coauthor Thomas Wenisch, an assistant professor at Michigan. “We’re proposing a computer system that can perform a giant surge of computation but then gets tired and has time to rest.”

Computational sprinting is about technology working smarter rather than harder. In the case of smartphones, because they are so small, technology is not able to work harder without overheating the device. This new method allows processors to reach their full potential without causing damage to the hardware.

AT&T is applying the same dynamic to its wireless network. The limited amount of spectrum available to the carrier is holding the company back from serving its customers, but its self-optimizing network technology gains awareness of traffic and bandwidth across the country, allowing cells to expand and contract to meet subscribers changing needs. AT&T is improving its service, not by adding more to its infrastructure, but by making the technology it has more efficient.

The next step is for researchers to create a prototype that lets manufacturers observe computational sprint in action. The challenge will be in creating a working model that shows off the blazing speeds researchers claim are reachable, while assuring the basic performance of devices is not affected.

If the trials are successful and companies implement the technology, it will open new doors for developers whose apps have been limited by handsets’ inability to reach their full potential and give a whole new meaning to the word “smart” phones.

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