embedded software boot camp

Embedded Systems and the Environment

Friday, June 20th, 2008 by Nigel Jones

With the recent run up in the price of oil, it seems as if everyone is talking about energy and how to conserve it. For most people, the only impact they can have on the environment is through their own individual actions and choices. Engineers however, are in a different position because at a professional level, the design choices we make can have a profound effect on the environment. If we believe the figures about the number of embedded processors shipped each year (billions) and we make the very conservative estimate that each processor is in a system that consumes 1 WH per day, then the annual energy consumption of new embedded systems runs to at least 1E9 * 1 * 365 = 365 Tera Watt hours, with an average power consumption of around 41 Megawatts. If we assume that the average life of an embedded system is 5 years, then the embedded systems out there are burning about 200 Megawatts. That’s a lot of power folks.

Now here’s the interesting thing. Most embedded projects are for products that are made in the thousands. Individually, these products power consumption is irrelevant. Collectively they are huge. Thus if as an industry we made a concerted effort to reduce the power consumption of our products, the benefits to society would be substantial. So how exactly do we do this? Although a lot of the power consumption comes from the hardware design, the firmware design can also have a dramatic impact on the overall power consumption of the system. In my next posting I’ll look at some of the ways you can design your system firmware so as to minimize power consumption.

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