Mobile apps, games are energy thieves


During his time as a doctoral student, Ekhiotz Jon Vergara developed EnergyBox, a tool that measures and calculates how much energy is consumed by gadgets when connecting to the Internet to use apps and games. He found major opportunities for energy efficiency.

While a great deal of development effort is currently focused towards increasing the lifespan of batteries in mobile devices, Dr Vergara shows in his doctoral thesis that there is a great potential for energy savings in the software side as well.

He has developed EnergyBox, a tool that easily quantifies the energy consumption of mobile devices due to data communication. The tool simulates the consumption of wireless interfaces considering the aspects that impact the communication from the network operator and mobile device side. In his thesis, he used EnergyBox to compare how much energy various apps, computer games, and chat services use, and he also proposes energy-efficient solutions.It turns out that the energy consumption doesn’t only depend on how much data is sent, but also on how it’s sent. When two systems are to send data back and forth, they start with a ‘handshake’. This procedure can be long and energy-intensive or quick and energy-efficient. How often the systems shake hands with each other depends on how the data is sent and also the configuration of the network operator.

One simple way of saving energy in chats is queueing the message for a second.”Often we write, send, write send — but if the application can queue what we’re writing and then send everything at once, we can save up to 43% of the energy,” he says.

In the next step, he tested 20 different mobile games with the help of two students — both online multiplayer games and games played by only one person. Some of them also contain advertisements. Each game was played 5 times for 15 minutes.

“In principle, online multiplayer games consume more energy — that’s logical — but several single-player games that don’t have ads are still top energy consumers. There isn’t any linear connection here, either,” he tells us.

All the single-player games turned out to work just as well without an Internet connection, which means that there is a large potential for energy savings.

It is not a simple issue, as total energy consumption depends on many factors: how the network operator has optimised its network, the hardware in the telephone, the operating system, and how energy-intensive the respective apps or games are. We often have many apps running, and the total consumption is not the sum of the various apps running alone since the apps affect each other.

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