While there have been many advances in low-power IC design, it still involves tough choices and poses difficult questions, according to Rob Aitken, R&D fellow at ARM. Aitken talked about the myths and realities of low-power design in a keynote speech at the recent IEEE Electronic Design Processes (EDP) workshop.
On the surface, it's getting simpler, because the various low-power design techniques are "coalescing into a few fairly straightforward solutions," Aitken said. For example, designers have turned away from fine-grained power gating, and although everyone requests body biasing in cell libraries nobody seems to use it.
But there are still a number of harsh realities, and the first of these is that you can't just talk about "low power" without being more specific. "Go ask a fab about low power and you'll wind up with a low leakage process, and if you build something in that process you'll find it has higher dynamic power," Aitken said. "The first step in any low-power system is to determine which is more important - leakage or dynamic power - and then work with that."
Here are some other points that emerged from the keynote:
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