By Steve Carlson, Cadence Design Systemsdspdesignline.com (December 18, 2008)
Electronic technology is rapidly evolving. Last year's hot product is quickly replaced by something smaller, faster and with more bells and whistles, which is great.
Still, there's a nagging awareness that every new gadget consumes more energy, adding to the carbon footprint—and these footprints seem to be getting larger. In fact, the energy consumption problem is so critical that it's impacting system reliability as well.
It's high time we made system design more power efficient.
Electronic technology gives us the ability to stay connected to better manage our increasingly complex lives. But each one of these connected devices draws more power. If you look at the applications stack inside almost any wireless electronic device, you'll see that internally it's expanding at an astronomical rate—clear evidence of both the value these devices hold in our everyday life, and of their thirst for power.
Even outside these wireless systems, there's a tremendous requirement for power from traditional gridded power arrays, to support the transmitters and data centers that move data traffic around the world. It's been estimated, for instance, that one highly popular multi-user PC game in Asia alone uses the electrical equivalent of three power plants every day to support its players.
While these applications and devices represent the leading edge in hardware and software deployment today, as incredible as it may seem, they are still very inefficient from a power consumption standpoint. Every hardware and software design in development today could draw less power. That means digital music and video players, handsets, data centers, laptops, PCs, workstations—everything.
Not surprisingly, everyone stands to benefit, as well. For example, by designing a cooler device, chip companies pass on a reduction in thermal energy on the chip. This, in turn, reduces the risk of product failures, enables smaller, less expensive packaging, and provides for improved carbon and area footprints for the overall system. The net is a smaller, less expensive and more reliable end-product.
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