As the Web gets bigger and mobile devices get smaller, power and access erode dramatically.
Researchers now look to a most unlikely source—the marketing flop Google Glass—for answers.
These so-called “underpowered devices”—smaller and smaller tech gadgets such as Google Glass—are suffering as the internet becomes more complex and dynamic. These demands strain underpowered devices.
In spite of the first-iteration woes of Google Glass, researchers continue to study the beleaguered device to glean information about how to create a better user experience with the next generation of underpowered mobile devices.
At stake could be a revolutionary new small device—remember how transformative was the tiny iPod?
Such a future, however, could be a long journey—according to researchers who authored “The Web for Underpowered Mobile Devices: Lessons Learned from Google Glass.”
“In general, the browsing performance on Glass is worse than a smartphone, primarily because the same content is being delivered to Glass and smartphones regardless of the device type. Glass is an underpowered mobile device with smaller processing power and smaller battery than smartphones,” the authors wrote.
How the experiments panned out
A profiler monitored Google Glass and a smartphone through six experiments for four performance metrics—power consumption, temperature variation, downloaded bytes, and webpage load time using WiFi.
The results demonstrate that, in order to increase the functionality of underpowered devices, web developers should reduce web content, use simpler image formats, rely more on the cloud, and use better security protocols.
Important results from the study
WebP image format is more energy-efficient than JPEG and PNG on Glass. For example, using WebP instead of JPEG on m.wikihow.com results in 45-percent savings in power consumption and 50 percent lower webpage load time.
The cost of accessing a website using HTTPS on Glass compared to a smartphone increases with increasing webpage size, number of web objects, and number of servers accessed through the webpage.
Glass power consumption is 27 percent lower than that of a smartphone for webpages with less than 64 web objects. However, power consumption on Glass becomes 17 percent higher than that of a smartphone when loading webpages having more than 64 web objects.
Additionally, the number of websites tailored for Glass was dismally low, demonstrating a need for web developers to build better sites for a growing market of lightweight devices.
Only seven out of 50 studied websites are optimized for content delivery to Glass. For example, m.espn.go.com optimizes by serving images according to Glass screen dimensions.
The takeaways in a nutshell
The authors came up with four takeaways for any industry seeking to capitalize on underpowered devices:
- Use efficient image formats. WebP instead of JPEG or PNG can be used on webpages to save power and lower the webpage load time.
- Use cloud-based acceleration rather than a full-fledged browser as Glass uses. Also, use a data-compression proxy on the cloud, thereby reducing network bandwidth, power consumption, and webpage load time.
- Use new protocols. SPDY can be used in place of HTTPS to improve browser performance.
The authors of this study are Jagmohan Chauhan of Aalto University, Mohamed Ali Kaafar of Macquarie University, and Anirban Mahanti of Motley Fool.
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