By Graham Hellestrand, Founder and CTO and Strategy Officer for VaST Systems TechnologyEmbedded.comOct 21 2005 (9:00 AM)
Portable and embedded products that consume less power have a very significant advantage in today's extremely competitive markets. Each generation of product planning must satisfy substantial increases in functionality and performance plus substantial reductions in power consumption. This is particularly true in the case of battery-powered embedded and portable (often wireless) consumer electronics systems.
These portable products are become physically smaller with each new generation, yet consumers have grown to expect more and better functionality (which requires increased processing capability and performance) and to demand longer battery life. In addition to actually making telephone calls, for example, a modern cell phone may include features such as the ability to act as a personal organizer; play games; take, transmit, and receive still pictures and/or short videos; browse the internet; and so forth.
In the past, the focus of next-generation product planning has been concentrated largely on the micro-architecture of the underlying microprocessing units. However, the improvement of the processor micro-architecture typically yields only second- or third-order effects with regard to improving performance.
By comparison, the overall hardware (platform) architecture and the architecture and algorithmic content of the software that runs on it both have first-order effects at the system level.
Creating optimal low-power designs requires making sophisticated tradeoffs in the hardware architecture, the software architecture, and the underlying software algorithms. The creation of successful power-sensitive designs requires system architects and engineers (both hardware and software) to have the ability to accurately and efficiently perform and quantify such tradeoffs. In order to achieve this, the architects and engineers require the ability to access and analyze power data early in the design process.
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