Sofant plans to commercialise smart antenna by 2018, boosting Wi-Fi performance and battery power consumption
Scottish firm Sofant Technologies has received €1.97m (£1.54m) in European funding to help it commercialise smart antenna technology that could drastically improve connectivity in smartphones and double battery life.
The University of Edinburgh spin-off says antenna technology has not kept up with other advances in smartphones, resulting in weak connections and poor battery life. It claims antennas are responsible for half of the energy consumed by a device when the screen is off and 80 percent during a call.
Sofant’s ‘steerable’ antenna seeks out the best signal available, whereas conventional antennas takes a more indiscriminate approach, using more energy. The technology was a product of a £1 million programme to develop miniaturised satellites, but now it could transform Wi-Fi connectivity as early as 2018, according to the company.
“We call this a smart antenna because it has been designed to seek out the strongest signal and focus on it, rather than the current model that constantly radiates energy in all directions,” said COO Ahmed El-Rayis.
“We have been researching and planning this project for 10 years to perfect the design. This funding will enable us to take the product to foundry and we’re currently asking for tenders.”
The funding has been distributed as part of the EU’s €3bn Horizon 2020 SME fund. The head of the SMB component says Sofant was awarded the cash because of its ability to transform the mobile industry. Sofant has identified a potential $2.5bn market.
“Sofant’s technology is a prime example of disruptive innovation,” said Bernd Reichert. “They have identified a need in the market within a sector willing to pay for an added value product.”
Many want Apple to use its extensive cash reserves to develop more advanced batteries, while others have focused on creating more energy efficient cellular, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth networks, which can be one of the biggest users of power.
Smartphone manufacturers have also introduced low power modes that switch off or turn down non-essential functions when users need to conserve battery
Companies like Huawei and Oppo have instead looked at how quickly existing batteries can be replenished and are working on super-fast chargers. While this would eliminate some of the grievances, it would be less useful for those who are away from mains electricity or don’t have the correct charger with them.
British manufacturer Dyson is investing £1bn in battery development, while researchers have created a system called ‘Pure Wi-Fi’ that uses 10,000 times less power than existing wireless networks.
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