Your Smartphone's Accelerometer Could Make Mobile Broadband Faster

MIT Professor Hari Balakrishnan thinks wireless carriers aren't using their networks in the most efficient way possible when it comes to mobile broadband, resulting in slower speeds. His solution involves using your phone's accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, barometer and GPS.

According to the Economist, Balakrishnan believes the main problem with current mobile broadband is how phones handle cellular tower switching while on the move. Basically, when phones are connected to one cellular tower, they will wait until the signal is considerably weakened before making the jump to a closer tower. Balakrishnan wants phones to predict which tower you'll be heading to next before the signal begins to weaken:

By determining the approximate heading, velocity and acceleration of a device, software developed by Dr Balakrishnan's group can predict and assign the optimum data rate to communicate with an attached network without all the fuss of negotiating slower or faster transmissions. Dr Balakrishnan says this is possible thanks to the overall effect of access to many sensors. Data from the compass, the gyro and the acceleration sensor can be pooled in ways that make the real-time positioning data more robust than data from any individual sensor, he explains.

By implementing a more proactive system of tower switching, Balakrishnan believes it will not only benefit carriers in terms of user satisfaction, but will also save them billions of dollars in operating costs. When networks slow down due to weak signals, data packets are lost in transmission and more packets have to be sent as a result. By transmitting fewer packets, less bandwidth and power would be used across the network. Ultimately, such a system could have phones operating at 90-95% of their "ideal data rate" (as opposed to 50%) [MIT via The Economist]