It works without any new battery technology or troublesome power-management systems–it simply hands off some of the phone’s processing requirements onto the cloud. It makes use of a Web proxy server and a connection between the phone and the server that has been highly optimized.
The project, which was the work of Aalto University’s Jukka Manner, Edward Mutafungwa, Le Wang, and Yeswanth Puvvala, may have a number of benefits. The team aimed to bring smartphones with Internet access to places that have not previously been able to afford them. Having lower processing requirements means that phones can be fitted with less-powerful processors (which are much cheaper). The system was designed with Africa in mind and was tested on cellular networks in Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya– but it has an audience closer to home, too.
Smartphones can do a lot but there is one thing that they struggle with: battery life. On a bad day my smartphone barely makes it home from work with a charge. While I would not want to trade the processor for a longer lasting battery, I would be prepared to have some of the processing applications handled by the cloud.
Obviously, there will be some tradeoffs: the processing will have to be performed at a data center somewhere, the reduced processing load will come with an increased network load, and, because certain functions are handled off the phone there may be privacy concerns–Amazon did something very similar with the Kindle Fire and raised the ire of privacy advocates. But when it comes to hurling birds at wooden fortresses full of pigs or streaming music or video, privacy isn’t really a problem.