Green With Efficiency

What the world needs, what my company needs, and what I need—not necessarily in that order.

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By Cary Chin

As we’ve all pretty much made the jump into low-power design in the electronics industry over the last few years, I’d like to think a bit about where we’ve been and where we’re headed. When we started this journey with clock gating and then multi-threshold design, the predominant goal for low-power design was to achieve reasonable battery life for then-emerging battery powered devices like laptops, cellular phones and early digital cameras.

Today, the much-ballyhooed “convergence” has happened. My smart phone (the one with the “GS” at the end) is a reasonable substitute for 90% of my telephone needs, 80% of my GPS needs, 80% of my electronic communications needs, 50% of my photography needs, 50% of my computing needs (including gaming), and maybe 20% of my video needs. A single device that does all this, that I can carry in my pocket, and which lasts through the day (well, sort-of) without a recharge? Incredible! And even more incredibly, my “vacation travel pack” of electronics, which just a couple of years ago consisted of a phone, iPod, DS, Palm organizer, camera, video camera, laptop, games, DVD’s, tapes, batteries, and many, many chargers, has in many cases turned into just my phone. Nice!

Today’s mantra for low power is evolving into our larger call for efficiency – from saving the planet to saving the country to saving space in my pocket. Power considerations in electronic design today are just as likely to be for efficiency in server farms and network infrastructure in the “cloud” as for the continuous need for extending battery life on our precious mobile devices. The global green movement is starting to change the old American adage from “more is better” to “enough is enough.” Our push for convergence is a big part of the solution – just the landfill savings in old batteries and chargers must be enormous!

My only complaint is that my wallet still takes the same amount of space in my pocket that it always has – and it’s the last thing I carry in addition to my phone. To all you app developers out there – it’s time we finally made wallets obsolete! Is there an app for that??

Cary Chin is director of technical marketing for low-power solutions at Synopsys.