A team of US researchers has introduced a new radio technology that allows small mobile devices such as fitness trackers and smartwatches to take advantage of battery power in larger devices nearby for communication.
Dubbed Braidio for "braid of radios", the technology can extend battery life hundreds of times in some cases, the researchers said.
They hope that using "energy offload" techniques may help to make these devices smaller and lighter in the future.
Technologies like Braidio open up a new way of thinking about the design of mobile and wearable devices, said Deepak Ganesan, Professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst, in the US, and research team leader.
"Wearable devices are often bulky due to large batteries needed for adequate battery life," he said in a university statement.
"Perhaps such energy offload techniques can reverse this trend and enable thinner and lighter devices," Ganesan noted.
To develop the new technology, the researchers embellished Bluetooth, a commonly-used radio technology, with the ability to operate in a similar manner to radio-frequency identification (RFID), which operates asymmetrically.
Braidio operates like a standard Bluetooth radio when a device has sufficient energy, but operates like RFID when energy is low, offloading energy use to a device with a larger battery when needed.
So, when a smartwatch and smartphone are equipped with Braidios, they can work together to proportionally share the energy consumed for communication, they explained.
In a paper presented on Thursday at the Association for Computing Machinery's special interest group on data communication (SIGCOMM) conference in Florianópolis, Brazil, the researchers showed the design of the technology that has the ability to offload energy to larger devices nearby.
They said they are testing a prototype radio that could help to extend the life of batteries in small, mass-market mobile devices such as fitness trackers and smartwatches.