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October 15, 2012

Tech Focus

Getting more (performance) for less (power)

Optimizing for low power in embedded MCU designs

How capacitive sensing can reduce standby power in household appliances

Using sensor controllers to reduce power consumption in mobile computing

Editor's Note

Bernard Cole Bernard Cole
Site Editor
Read his blog

Embedded developers have always been concerned about keeping the power-budget of their designs as low as possible while at the same time getting the performance needed for the application.

But now with concerns about the environment and conserving fuel, as well as the new wireless sensor environment in which embedded devices now operate things get much tougher. Often the only power available is from a carefully managed battery supply or collected from the ambient environment. Working against this is the higher degree of functionality – and demands for power – that current microprocessor and microcontroller-based SoCs exhibit.

Here are the links to some recent Embedded.com product and news stories, development articles as well as white papers, on line classes and webinars to help you work your way through the web of complexities and the variety of solutions available. Of these, my Editor's Top Picks are:

"Optimizing for low power in embedded MCU designs," in which Sachin Gupta and Madhan Kumar look at the major factors contributing to power consumption in an embedded system by analyzing the various power modes that most microcontrollers offer.

"How capacitive sensing can reduce standby power in household appliances," by Gerrit de Villiers shows how to use capacitive proximity sensors to reduce standby power in household appliances to well below 50 mW.

"Using sensor controllers to reduce power consumption in mobile computing," where Daniel Torres explains how a sensor controller can help reduce the overall system power consumption in mobile computing devices, and uses the MSP430 MCU to provide power consumption data.

Other relevant conferences papers and journal articles can be found in the Resources Around the Network section below the TechOnLine Library on the right. Such issues will among many others discussed at the ESC DESIGN West Conference next April. If you have a topic or design strategy you want to share with your fellow embedded systems designers, submit an abstract, the deadline for which is Nov. 2.


Taking advantage of new low-power modes on advanced microcontrollers

The author describes several common low power operating profiles and how they can be used to optimize a MCU's operation to meet specific system requirements. He also explains the tradeoffs involved with each, using a special battery life estimator.

Don't ignore zero standby for effective power reduction

One of the quickest and most efficient ways to achieve low power operation in embedded systems in consumer products, appliances, and portable electronics is more effective use of an electronic circuit's standby power modes.

Using drowsy cores to lower power in multicore SoCs

Freescale engineers describe a cascading power management technique that steers tasks to a smaller number of cores during non-peak activity periods so that the idle cores can enter a minimal-power or "drowsy" state.

Power aware verification of ARM-based designs

How to deal with the challenges of power aware verification in SoCs and use IEEE 1801-2009 Unified Power Format to define power management architecture for verifying a power-managed ARM-based design. (Paper from ARM TechCon 2010.)

Optimal digital power control using LLC resonant converters

The authors describe a digital power control implementation using line level control (LLC) resonant converters based on a flexible, 32-bit, low-cost, high-performance microcontroller. Key elements of digital power control are explored; including duty cycle control, dead-band adjustment in real time, frequency control, and adaptive thresholds for maintaining different safe operation regions.

The basics of low power programming on the Cortex-M0

In this article, Joseph Yiu, author of "The Definitive Guide to the Arm Cortex-M0," provides a brief introduction to some of the ways in which a programmer can take advantage of the processors low power features.


Microsemi rolls industry's only Flash-based FPGA with industry firsts in security and low power

Microsemi Corporation's new SmartFusion2 system-on-chip (SoC) field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) are designed to address fundamental requirements for advanced security, high reliability, and low power.

dsPIC33 "GS" DSCs enable digital control for power conversion apps

Microchip Technology Inc. has expanded its dsPIC DSC portfolio with the new dsPIC33FJ09GS302 family of dsPIC33 "GS" digital signal controllers (DSCs), adding lower-cost options for digital-power conversion.

8-bit PIC MCUs combine eXtreme Low Power, automated touch sensing

Microchip Technology Inc. has expanded its 8-bit eXtreme low Power (XLP) Enhanced Midrange Core PIC microcontrollers (MCUs), with the new PIC16F1512/13 devices.

Cortex-M4 MCUs consume 66% Less Power

Atmel Corporation has launched SAM4L family of ARM Cortex-M4 processor-based microcontrollers (MCUs) incorporating the company's proprietary ultra-low power picoPower technology.

Microchip's new Multipurpose Flash Plus devices deliver high speed, low power, small footprint for NOR Flash apps

Microchip Technology Inc. has expanded its Multipurpose Flash Plus (MPF+) portfolio with four new compact 512K x16 Parallel Flash CMOS devices.

COM Express module is powered by ultra-low-power AMD G-Series

The CEM100 from Axiomtek is a new low-power COM Express Type 2 module powered by either a single core AMD G-Series APU T40R at 1.0GHz or the dual core T56N at 1.65 GHz.

M2M software development kit for ultra low power Wi-Fi modules

RTX has launched a software development platform for its latest ultra low power Wi-Fi module, enabling application developers to bring M2M applications to market rapidly and cost effectively.


FRAM helps TI cut power for Wolverine MSP430 platform

Wolverine is the moniker chosen by Texas Instruments for an ultra-low-power MSP430 microcontroller platform launched here which provides 360 nA real-time clock mode - more than doubling battery life - and less than 100 μA/MHz active power consumption.

MIT and ST co-develop low power SoC MPU

An R&D project between the Microsystems Technology Laboratories (MTL) of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and STMicroelectronics has developed a reduced consumption 32-bit ultra-low-voltage microprocessor SoC which could be used in wireless sensors and implantable medical devices.

Cortex-M based MCUS use power profiles to optimize performance

With its latest Cortex-based LPC1100L and LPC1300L microcontrollers NXP Semiconductors is aiming to raise the benchmarks in 32-bit active power consumption.

GMS's rugged Atom-based SBC delivers high performance and low power consumption

Average power for the mil-spec, Atom-based board is just 3 W.

Energy management system merges embedded, wireless, cloud elements

A startup with a novel blend of application software, wireless control networking and cloud computing is entering the home/small-office energy-management market.

Collections on Embedded.com

Embedded.com now has a series of collections of content by topic at www.embedded.com/collections. We will continue to add content to our collections and will have a rating system in the near future where you can rate your favorite articles (and help others find them). To suggest new collections or to suggest content to add to a collection, contact Susan Rambo, managing editor.

Browse the collections. A sampling of topics include:
PID control
Digital signal processing
Agile programming
Watch Dog Timers

TechOnline Library

Tech Papers

Scaling High-Performance Applications for Low Power and Cost

Powering Low-Power RF Products

Low Cost 1W Isolated Power Supply Solution

Autonomous Sensor Monitoring in sub-µA Energy Modes

Measuring Bluetooth Low Energy Power Consumption

A Transferable Blueprint for Energy-Efficient Operations

Energy Efficiency: Smart designs for an electronics-hungry world

Webinars & Courses

Energy Efficient Solutions

A new 32-bit processor solution for entry-level and energy-efficient applications

Addressing the High Performance/Low Energy Requirements of Multicore Platforms

Verifying Advanced Low Power Designs – Why Comprehensive LP Static Checking is Needed Throughout the Implementation Flow


Around the Network Events

Device Power Management for Real Time Embedded Systems

Fine-grained power management for multi-core systems

Comprehensive approach to power management in embedded systems

Dynamic power management for hard real-time systems

New 1μA, 1V Timer ICs
Touchstone's new TS3001/2 timers use only 1μA
Icc–15X less than others. Set the frequency with just 1 resistor (TS3001) or a resistor and capacitor (TS3002). Featuring a low 0.044%/°C (TS3002) and ultra low 0.021%/°C (TS3001) frequency drift. Free samples.
Learn more...

Conferences and Events

ESC Silicon Valley Call for Abstracts
Deadline is November 2, 2012:
The Embedded Systems Conference (now part of DESIGN West) is soliciting proposals from speakers with deep technical expertise for the technical conference program and speed-training theater sessions at the ESC Silicon Valley 2013 (April 22 through 25 in San Jose, California). "This year for the first time we're actively soliciting real-world case studies, talks that include demos, and all elements of the design cycle--from concept through to production." says Karen Field, interim conference director.

ESC tracks include:
--Connectivity and networking
--Debugging and test
--Embedded Android
--"Hello World": focused on the latest hardware and software development tools
--Hardware: Design, I/O, and Interfacing
--Linux Kernel and operating systems
--Low-Power design
--Processors and programmable devices
--Real time operating systems
--Safety, security & hacking embedded systems
--Systems design

For more info on tracks and submitting, click here. Submit proposals by November 2, 2012.

Mark your calendar

Registration is now open for Embedded Systems Conference 2013 (part of DESIGN West), to be held April 22 to 25, 2013 at the McEnery Convention Center, San Jose, CA. Super-early pricing available now (save $800 on All-Access Pass).

ARM TechCon 2012 is October 30 through November 1, 2012 at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA.
Oct. 30 is Chip Design Day
Oct. 31 through Nov. 1 are the Software & Systems Design Days
Tracks include:
--Android / open source
--Compute platforms
--Developing & debugging
--Low-power design
--Microcontroller and programmable platforms
--Multimedia processing
--Networking & connectivity
--Safety & security
--Software optimization on ARM-powered systems
--The fundamentals of ARM

For more industry events, visit Embedded.com's event page.

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