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Finnish Proxy Could Slash Phone Power Demands

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Researchers say a network proxy will reduce the power consumption of web surfing smartphones

Researchers in Finland have developed a network proxy that could cut the power consumption of Internet-connected mobile devices by up to three quarters.

The researchers, from the Aalto University in Finland, claim that their network proxy can cut the power consumption of 3G smartphones by serving as a middleman when they connect to the Internet. Effectively, it handles the majority of the data transfer for the smartphone, thereby freeing up the smartphone’s processor which reduces its power consumption.

Developing Nations

The use of a proxy his well estalbished, particularly by the Opera browser, and by Amazon’s Silk browser, both of which are designed for speed. The Aalto researchers have instead focused on power usage.

They say this new network proxy will be important for mobile phone users in developing countries because it provides significantly more effective Internet access to a much larger number of people. Indeed, the scientists are presenting a case study for this new development at this week’s scientific conference Africomm 2011.

“At the moment, only a small percent can access the Internet from a wired connection, but 90 percent of the African population lives in areas with mobile phone network coverage,” said  Professor Jukka Manner of Aalto University in a statement.

“Mobile phone usage is increasing rapidly, however the use of mobile Internet services is hindered by users not having access to the power grid to recharge their phones,” Professor Jukka Manner.

The case study conducted at Aalto University apparently examined Internet usage in three East African countries: Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. The researchers said they had develop energy-saving solutions for smartphones that could be easily deployed across a mobile network and in particular in areas without reliable sources of electricity.

In addition to the new, optimised proxy solution, the researchers discovered that the power consumption of smartphones could also be significantly reduced by mobile optimised websites, coupled with HTTP compression and more efficient use of data caching.

Battery Life Extension

As the use of mobile devices increases around the world, attention is being paid to the best ways to reduce the energy consumption of these devices and prolonging battery life. This is because limited battery life is proving to be a pain for today’s smartphone users.

Some developments are geared towards inventing better and long lasting battery technology, whilst others seek to tweak existing software and hardware, to wring out more battery life.

For example back in September researchers at the University of Michigan created an “idle listening” fix for smartphones to dramatically improve battery life. They claim that their new “subconscious mode” for smartphones and other Wi-Fi-enabled devices could extend battery life by as much as 54 percent for users on the busiest networks.

And in the same month British scientists at the University of Leeds invented a jelly lithium battery. These flexible polymer gel batteries can be shaped and bent to fit virtually any device and can be made just nanometres thick at a rate of ten metres per minute.