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Low-Power Undercurrents at GlobalPress 2012

While not the primary theme at this year’s Globalpress eSummit 2012, low power concerns were present in almost every presentation as these snippets reveal.

Altera – Jeff Waters, Seniro VP and GM

  • HardCopy (structured ASIC product) can further reduce power as compared to FPGAs by hardwiring a good portion of the chip. For reference, a chip company needs 30 million units at $10 per unit for an ASIC implementation to make sense.
  • Servers become more application specific to handle social media, financial, and other segments. The growth in these segments means that servers must also become more power sensitivity. One approach – used by IBM – is to mix CPUs with specialized accelerators to help reduce power by removing general purpose processors. [Interesting footnote: Intel is working with FPGA vendors Altera and Acrhonix to develop both desktop and server chips.]


Tensilica – Chris Rowen, PhD, CTO

  • For mobile phone designs, the voice requirements are outpacing bothMoore’s Law and battery technology. Designers will need to innovate more than just ride the wave of silicon technology (Moore’s Law). Mobile phones need increasing lower power matched with higher performance. Unfortunately, battery technology only improves by a couple percent per year.
  • Advanced audio and voice methods for mobile devices have become much more DSP intensive to handle noise control as in a car, beam forming microphone arrays and Always-on Voice recognition. The later needs low latency but also low power. Local extraction of phonemes (the individual sounds used to create speech) using Hidden Markov Models (used in speech recognition). These devices need to be “Always on” so you can have the illusion of being “Always off.”
  • The host CPU in a smart phone can not keep up with audio requirements. Power is critical. ARM cortex process is a great CPU, but not a great DSP. There is a big gap in performance – 15x between running audio codec on optimized DSP verses a general CPU.


… Editorial in progress – more to follow …

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