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Old News

Imec significantly reduces cost of germanium-based thermophotovoltaic cells

tpv proccess Imec has announced an improved processing technique for germanium-based thermophotovoltaic (TPV) cells resulting in significant reduction of cell cost, an essential step to develop a market for thermophotovoltaic applications. Imec’s newly developed TPV cells are fabricated on germanium substrates with an optimized surface, specifically designed and manufactured for this application. More...





X-FAB Announces 8-Inch MEMS Center for Cost-Effective, High-Volume, Advanced MEMS Production

xfab logo X-FAB Silicon Foundries today announced it will expand its foundry service to include 8-inch (200mm) MEMS wafer processing. Moving to the larger wafer diameter and monolithic MEMS/CMOS integration allows significant reductions in manufacturing costs. More...



ARM, Freescale, IBM, Samsung, ST-Ericsson and Texas Instruments Form New Company to Speed the Rollout of Linux-Based Devices

Linaro logo ARM, Freescale Semiconductor, IBM, Samsung, ST-Ericsson and Texas Instruments Incorporated (TI), today announced the formation of Linaro, a not-for-profit open source software engineering company dedicated to enhancing open source innovation for the next wave of always-connected, always-on computing. Linaro’s work will help developers and manufacturers provide consumers with more choice, more responsive devices and more diverse applications on Linux-based systems. More...







Making Sense of Data Management on Intelligent Devices

ITTIA listing Developers face unique challenges when designing and implementing software for custom embedded hardware. Embedded processor architectures, such as ARM, PowerPC, Atom, each have unique characteristics. Footprint and performance are especially important, and access to source code for all software components is required for customization and portability. More...





Power Saving Measures for Programmable Logic Designers

undersea storage Squeezing every last microwatt from a system is a common objective for engineers who are designing battery operated equipment. This article examines design methods and practical advice for saving power. Since modern programmable logic devices (PLDs) have very low dynamic current requirements, often in the microampere range, they are ideal as system event monitors to control overall system wake/sleep states. More...





Low-Power Design Goes Wireless!

figure 2 We’ve been covering low-power wireless from the beginning—actually for many years before Low-Power Design started up. Starting in May—in anticipation of the IEEE MTT International Microwave Symposium in Anaheim from May 23-28—Low-Power Design is launching a new Low-Power Wireless web site on May 23. It will closely resemble Low-Power Design but be focused exclusively on RF/wireless design. More...







New System Partitioning

figure 2 Cell phones, portable navigation devices and portable media players are built around one main host processor that acts as the brain of the device and runs all the software needed to make the product work, such as audio and video streaming or Internet connections. Implementing a novel system partitioning, in such a way that not everything is controlled by these processors, can help reduce the development time. More...



Design Chain Solution for Silicon-on-Insulator Technology

chip wafer The SOI Industry Consortium today announced the launch of its “Ready for SOI Technology” program, a global initiative to broaden access to energy-efficient silicon-on-insulator (SOI) technology for the electronics industry. With this program an initial offering of SOI intellectual property has been provided by IBM, ARM, and Cadence Design Systems. More IP has been added by Boeing and Synopsys, with an invitation extended to other developers to add to the growing SOI IP ecosystem. More...







Formal Verification for Challenging Low-Power Designs

jasper figure 1 Designers using advanced energy-efficient techniques increase the complexity of their designs. These techniques are defined at the architectural level and have a strong impact throughout the design process. Complexity induced by multi-power domain chips and advanced low-power techniques make verification a difficult task. For all these techniques, verification is becoming the biggest bottleneck. More...



Verification Methodology for Low Power--Part 1

vmm cover This is the first of four weekly serialized installments from the Verification Methodology Manual for Low Power. Part 1 covers Multi-Voltage Testbench Architecture—Testbench Structure and Components. Part 2 will cover Multi-Voltage Testbench Architecture—Coding Guidelines as well as Library Modeling for Low Power. Part 3 addresses Multivoltage Verification—Static Verification. Part 4 covers Multivoltage Verification—Dynamic Verification and Hierarchical Power Management. More...





Putting Intelligence in ‘Bricks’

emcomm radio While software defined radios have added significant flexibility to public safety portable radios, the next step in the progression of capabilities is to add cognitive capabilities to public safety portables. A radio is considered cognitive if it is aware of its environment and internal state and can make decisions about its radio operating behavior based on that information and predefined objectives. More...




Designing Low-Cost Single/Multi-Cell Li-ION Battery Chargers

figure 2 Li-ION rechargeable batteries, with a projected yearly market growth rate of approximately 20%, are widely used in smart phones, portable media players, and digital still cameras. This battery type is widely adopted because of its high energy density on both gravimetric and volumetric basis, low self discharge rate, and low maintenance. Li-Ion batteries are also lighter in weight than NiCad and NiMH batteries. More...

Reducing Power with Advanced Clock Tree Synthesis and Optimization

figure 2 Clock trees pose a growing challenge to advanced node IC design, particularly with regard to the chip power consumption. Clocks are the single largest source of dynamic power usage, which makes clock tree synthesis (CTS) and optimization as a good place to achieve significant power savings. It has become essential to have a power-aware, multi-corner multi-mode (MCMM) CTS with smart clock gate handling, slew shaping, register clumping, and other advanced techniques for reducing power, skew, area, and buffer count. More...







Five Tips for Reducing Light Load Power Consumption

figure 4 It can be quite a challenge to meet today’s mandated efficiency requirements for power supplies. Just understanding the requirements is difficult enough, thanks to the dizzying array of initiatives and directives that vary by end equipment, power level, and governing authority. These include Energy Star, the California Energy Commission, and the EU Stand-by Initiative, to name a few. However, after a quick glance at any of these the energy conservation initiatives, it becomes clear that one of the greatest challenges for the power supply designer is to minimize the power loss at light loads and no load. Here are five ways to remove those last few milliwatts from an offline flyback supply. More...


Voltage Supervisors Pull Multiple Duties

clock The market drives digital signal processor (DSP), microcontroller and field programmable gate array (FPGA) manufacturers to continually increase clock frequencies for higher performance while, at the same time, also demanding lower power consumption. These two opposing criteria led to the development of multiple power rail devices. Whether implemented using digital or analog technologies, voltage supervisors mitigate the conflict between performance and low power in multiple power rail devices.More...






ARM-based Processors Will Overtake x86 in Ultra-mobile Devices in 2013

ARM vs x86 While an estimated 90% of Ultra-mobile Devices (UMDs) shipped in 2009 were based on an x86 processor architecture, the introduction of ARM-based systems introduces greater choice and differentiation for system vendors. ABI Research forecasts that annual UMD shipments of netbooks, MIDs, smartbooks and UMPCs based on ARM instruction sets will overtake x86-based UMDs in 2013. More...




When Low-Power Design Gets Personal

Audeo hearing aid I lost my hearing in Hong Kong in 1996. Well, everything much over 1 kHz, that is. By all rights I should have lost it during rock concerts back in the ‘60s, but I guess the crowds made it hard to get too close to the speakers. Getting too close to pile drivers turned out to be a big mistake. I took delivery last week on a pair of sub-miniature, 16-channel wireless hearing aids. These little puppies are awesome. More...




Backlight LED Driver System in Small Format Liquid Crystal Displays

nurzad figure 1 This paper describes the different building-blocks needed to power LED backlights in small format LCDs. A switched capacitor voltage regulator is desirable for applications requiring low cost and small solution size. The constant current regulator approach adds to these features excellent current matching and brightness control. Last but not least the inductive boost solution yields the lowest power consumption over the entire supply voltage range. More...







MRAM—The Future of Non-Volatile Memory?

figure 3 Today’s portable electronics have become computationally intensive devices as the user interface has migrated to a fully multimedia experience. To provide the performance required for these applications, the portable electronics designer uses multiple types of memories: a medium-speed random access memory for continuously changing data, a high-speed memory for caching instructions to the CPU, and a slower, nonvolatile memory for long-term information storage when the power is removed. Combining all of these memory types into a single memory has been a long-standing goal of the semiconductor industry. More...





Optimizing Video Encoders with Digital Signal Processors

video encoder Video compression allows for digital video encoding, using as few bits as possible while maintaining acceptable visual quality. However, video compression involves sacrificing some degree of picture quality for a lower bit rate that facilitates transmission and storage. In addition, compression requires a high level of performance from the processor as well as versatility in design, since different types of video applications have different sets of requirements for resolution, bandwidth and resiliency. The extended flexibility provided by digital signal processors (DSP) address these differences and take full advantage of the options offered by advanced video compression standards to help system developers optimize their products. More...


Calling All Designers: Time to Get Creative with Cellular Functionality

generic 3G feature phone Cellular handsets play the roles of MP3-player, TV, radio, navigator, camera, web browser, PDA, and, yes, telephone. Feature-creep provides opportunities for the system designer but semiconductor integration takes them away at the same time. The hottest new feature in handsets is GPS to enable navigation features and location-based services. But the standalone GPS chip is going away, as suppliers of Bluetooth chips integrate the GPS function in their offerings. More...





Use of Integrated Optical Proximity Sensors in Multi-Function Smart Phones

figure 4Today’s smart phones are the focal point of technological convergence, combining mobile phone, MP3 player, camera, video, wireless internet, e-mail, gaming, Bluetooth, and navigation systems into one small device with the slim profile and light weight that consumers have come to expect. Short-range proximity sensors have become increasingly important components in managing a number of these features and making these feature-rich mobile devices more flexible and comfortable for the user, while simultaneously reducing power consumption and extending battery life. More...






Optimize Power Consumption in Portable Electronics Using Integrated Load Switches

figure 4 The adoption rate of load switches continues to increase across a broad range of end equipment including portable electronics (mobile phones, portable consumer electronics, notebooks or any portable equipment). Load switches are increasingly used in power management architectures to distribute power from a single regulated source or to switch off any unused peripherals (camera module, WLAN module, SD Card slot, LCD display, etc.) with the goal of limiting current leakages and optimizing the power consumption in a system. More...






Reducing EMI in Digital Systems through Spread Spectrum Clock Generators

figure 2 Any device capable of generating signals with frequencies in the RF range is a potential source of Electro-Magnetic Interference (EMI). These signals can cause interference in the normal operation of electronic devices such as radios, televisions, cell phones and other types of equipment. The primary sources of EMI in most systems are the clock generation and distribution circuits. More...


High Efficiency Audio Designs for Portable Devices

figure 1 With an ever increasing feature set found in today’s portable devices, a mobile phone can now function as a multimedia playback system, digital still camera and personal digital assistant (PDA). A portable media player (PMP) is now a navigation system, music player, global positioning system (GPS) and digital film library. Several systems are available with MP3 / MP4 playback, GPS, TV and gaming with web browser. Most manufacturers are now placing a greater emphasis on sound quality because sound is a key element to differentiate their products. Some manufacturers will even put more than one speaker in a system to improve the sound quality and output level. More...





Auto-Zero Operational Amplifiers: Inherent Benefits in Portable Signal-Conditioning Applications

figure 1 At first glance, the term “auto-zero” operational amplifier (op amp) may appear to be something new, but in reality this architectural concept has been around for decades. This article will explore the history behind auto-zero op amps and provide a high-level overview of the architecture. Additionally, the article will explore the inherent benefits of this architecture for signal-conditioning applications. Finally, an example application will be analyzed to further compare the auto-zero architecture to that of traditional op amps. More...




How to Make Mobile WiMax Consumer Devices a Reality

wimax With the completion of the IEEE 802.16e specification, mobile broadband service is now beginning around the world bringing fixed broadband services to homes and businesses. There are now over 75 commercial networks in operation worldwide supporting 1.3M subscribers. The bulk of these subscribers are using fixed WiMax service. To continue subscriber growth, network service providers have realized giving consumers the ability to “take the internet wherever you go” has huge potential. To do this effectively, mobile devices are needed that will mimic the internet experience at home regardless of location. More...



Lower Supply Voltages Enable Low-Power Portable Electronic Devices

cell phones The tremendous growth in the semiconductor industry over the last two decades has largely been a result of the scaling of CMOS devices which, over the years, has yielded lower costs with more die per wafer, smaller feature sizes and increased performance. However, device scaling has reached a point of threshold today, wherein its benefits are realized only if a device’s power consumption can be reduced by a few orders of magnitude. More...









Is Global Warming a Hoax?

global warming Having long since been politicized, the debate over global warming has become yet another front in the political culture wars. With the climate change deniers being led by such flat-earth luminaries as James Inhofe and Darrell Issa, it’s easy for anyone with upwards of half a brain to dismiss their followers as a bunch of babbling idiots. While some of them clearly are, unfortunately, fellow tree huggers, they have a point. More...





Active Noise Cancellation Comes to Mobile Phones

mobile phones All of us have experienced trying to make a mobile phone call from a noisy street, crowded restaurant or train station where the background noise can make it impossible to hear the incoming call. It can be worse when the person next to you in these situations is yelling into the receiver in an attempt to be heard. Active and passive noise canceling technologies can minimize background noise in high end headphones; however these technologies today can not provide the same benefits in mobile handsets. Clearly mobile handsets could benefit from noise cancellation. More...




Reducing EMI in Class D Audio Applications by Spread Spectrum Modulation Techniques

audio amp
The use of Class D audio amplifiers has become increasingly widespread in portable applications. As complexity, size and audio performance have improved, the Class D topology continues to gain market share. So compelling a benefit is efficiency that Class D amplifiers are now used extensively in portable designs worldwide, as battery life and small profile become key differentiators for end-users. The efficiency advantage is more pronounced when one realizes the typical audio application will normally operate at less than one-third of the total output power specified. More...

High-Speed Video Bus Battle in Portable Designs

bus During the 80s, I vividly remember my friend sketching his first computer graphic image of a Marlboro cigarette box on a Commodore 64 screen. Using his DOS operating system, he programmed a software routine that would output the color value and address of every pixel and pixel fields onto the CRT screen. It took hours to finish the red, black and white image. More...





Verification Management: The Path of Evolution

magnifying glass It is a universal truth that evolution is a never ending progression. Whether biological or technological, evolution is all about overcoming the hurdles in the path of development. We evolve and cross one hurdle and soon face another, then evolve again. For example, new modes of transportation were invented to resolve the travel-time issue, and now there is too much traffic. Whether it is in the air or freeway, this is one of many hurdles we must cross in transportation. The verification industry is no different. More...






Simplifying Android Migration: Using Mobile Virtualization to Reduce Time, Risk and Cost

virage slide The Android mobile device platform from Google and the Open Handset Alliance has ignited the imagination of mobile original equipment manufacturer (OEMs), developers and end users. Since its introduction, Android has enjoyed a rapidly growing market presence and bullish prospects for new deployments. Moreover, Android’s success as an open-source environment gives it additional momentum and rapid acceptance, and drives a fast-growing ecosystem of application developers. However, the underlying standard software components and an active developer community have not necessarily made it easier for OEMs to bring Android-based devices to market. More...






Processor Energy Savings Through Adaptive Voltage Scaling

figure 2 Frequency and voltage scaling are common place in portable electronic processors. These devices are providing more and more functionality and demand the highest data processing efficiency. Adaptive Voltage Scaling (AVS) provides the lowest operation voltage for a given processing frequency by utilizing a closed loop approach. The AVS loop regulates processor performance by automatically adjusting the output voltage of the power supply to compensate for process and temperature variation in the processor. In addition, the AVS loop trims out power supply tolerance. When compared to open loop voltage scaling solutions like Dynamic Voltage Scaling (DVS), AVS uses up to 45% less energy. More...


Choosing the Right Central Logic Device for Your Portable Design

schematic Most portable applications have a central logic device: field array programmable gate array (FPGA), digital signal processor (DSP) or microprocessor. Deciding the right device for your design is pivotal to the application capabilities and involves some important questions. More...







Developing Highly Integrated Solutions to Meet the Changing Demand of Multi-Mode Devices

figure 1 With an increasing number of travelers, both nationally and internationally, the world continues to become a smaller place and the desire for a single universal communication device grows. As the demand grows, so do the requirements – voice is still king, but the use of packet-based services, such as Web browsing, e-mail, file downloads and multi-media applications, is on the rise. These packet-based services require increased data rates which go beyond the capabilities of 2G technologies (GSM and CDMA) and require 3G and 4G standards. However, in order to maintain acceptable voice coverage, the devices must be backward compatible with established 2G networks. These multi-mode devices introduce a new set of challenges to the industry that will continue to increase as consumers demand more functionality. More...


Model-Based Design Accelerates Functional Verification

figure 1
Functional verification consumes from 50% to 65% of the development time and budget for today’s system-on-chip (SoC) projects. With fragmented tools and development methodologies that rely on manual scripting, collections of disparate verification tools, inter-tool incompatibilities with almost-standard transaction languages, and mismatched database sources, functional verification can itself become a project that deflects attention from the main development goals. Instead of optimizing and debugging product designs, engineers spend time debugging their workflow and compensating for gaps in their verification tool chain. More...


Hardware Software Co-design Accelerates Development of Smart Wireless Devices

figure 1 Trends in handheld wireless devices can change quickly. Driven by fickle consumer tastes, technologies and applications can drift in or out of fashion as easily as a pair of sunglasses. To capitalize on market demand for “what’s hot”, embedded device designers must apply new technologies rapidly and time-to-market becomes the Holy Grail. More...







Advanced Dynamic Voltage Scaling via VSEL, One-Pin EasyScale or I2C Interface

figure 1
In today’s applications dynamic voltage scaling (DVS) means either optimizing battery lifetime in portable applications, or saving energy and reducing heat in complex, multiprocessor environments. Interface and DVS functionality gives the system designer a new and highly advanced tool to achieve the best results in today’s complex applications. More...






Characterizing and Troubleshooting Digital RF Amplifier Systems

figure 3 With the emergence of high-speed data services on the wireless mobile networks, new challenges have been placed on the design and operation of power amplifiers. The bursted nature of new wireless access technologies (3GPP - HSPA, LTE, WiMax, and 3GPP2 - 1xEV-DO) can wreak havoc on the modern amplifier design that previously had been designed for voice-only communication. More...





Next-Generation Design Issues in Communications

clean tech Next-generation communication systems are presented with many design challenges. We are moving into an age where the rules for spectrum access may change faster than new equipment can be fielded and faster than new software for the equipment can be developed. At the same time, heterogeneity is increasing. The rate of development of new technologies and new air interface standards (AISs) is continuing to grow. Research is now exploring many new modes for finding spectrum, for negotiating for use of spectrum, for adapting the modulation to fit into available spaces, and for protocols by which radios can exchange their capabilities in this new field of Cognitive Radio and Dynamic Spectrum. More...


‘Cleantech’ Could Be Economy’s Next Boom

clean tech The U.S. economy sure could use the Next Big Thing. Something on the scale of railroads, automobiles or the Internet — the kind of breakthrough that emerges every so often and builds industries, generates jobs and mints fortunes. Silicon Valley investors are pointing to something called cleantech — alternative energy, more efficient power distribution and new ways to store electricity, all with minimal impact to the environment — as a candidate for the next boom. While no two booms are exactly alike, some hallmarks are already showing up. More...


Navy’s Fuel-Cell Plane Sets Endurance Record

fuel cell plane The U.S. Navy has developed a hydrogen-powered aircraft that can fly for nearly an entire day without refueling. During a test flight last week, the Ion Tiger, an unmanned air vehicle, stayed airborne for approximately 23 hours and 17 minutes, setting an unofficial endurance record for a flight powered by fuel-cell technology. The electric fuel cell propulsion system onboard the aircraft features a 550-Watt (0.75 horsepower) fuel cell that researchers say is 4 times more efficient than a comparable internal combustion engine. More...




Time to Reinvent the Semiconductor Industry

figure 1 The semiconductor industry has been the greatest single source of industrial innovation in recent history. But many of the advances have been incremental, such as the shift to high-k dielectric materials, and the move from aluminum to copper for on-chip interconnects. But as the old saw has it, after you've gone from the buggy to the car, building a better buggy whip won't do you any good. In electronics, building a better triode won't help. What the industry needs now is more like the shift from vacuum tubes to semiconductors. That's because two trends are driving the semiconductor industry to a momentous inflection point. More...





Ultra-Low Power Requires MCMM

figure 1ICs for smart phones, music players, and other portable products now depend on a palette of relatively exotic design methods, including multiple voltage domains, and dynamic voltage and frequency scaling (DVFS), to effectively manage power. These new techniques present a minefield of challenges to the entire design flow. This article outlines the challenges of designing ultra-low power portable designs. It describes tool capabilities that designers need to avoid excessive design margins and numerous lengthy iterations. It also describes results that are being achieved today by designers working on the most advanced SoC designs at 45nm. More...



Architectural Issues for Power Gating

figure 1 A scalable approach to chip architecture is valuable since a system-on-chip design today often becomes a component in an even larger chip in a subsequent product generation. This article discusses some of the architectural issues involved in implementing power-gating designs. In particular, it addresses the issues of partitioning, hierarchy and multiple power-gated domains. More...



Good Embedded Communications is the Key to Multicore Hardware Design Success

cpu While multicore processors have certainly become an important part of many SoC designs, there are still several obstacles designers face in dealing with more than one processing engine on a chip. It’s time to look at self-timed network on chip (NoC) interconnect fabrics for embedded communication networks. More...




Solve Portable Design Problems Using Convenient Concurrency

figure 2 Discussions of multicore chips, multiprocessors, and associated programming models for portable system design continue to be narrowly bounded by a focus on individual, general-purpose processor architectures, DSPs, and RTL blocks, which severely limits the possible ways in which you might use multiple computing resources to attack problems. More...



The Role of Digital Power in Portable Applications

freeman table Power management is vital to extending runtime for portable applications. Power conversion in these applications has been dominated by analog circuits, while the power management has been performed by embedded processors and simple sequencers. These analog solutions have served the system well. With recent trends in power solutions focusing on digital control, new opportunities emerge for portable power solutions.
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Low-Power Design Has a High-Power Payoff

household energy consumption graph Electricity use from power-hungry gadgets is rising fast all over the world. Americans now have about 25 consumer electronic products in every household, compared with just three in 1980. Worldwide, consumer electronics now represent 15 percent of household power demand, and that is expected to triple over the next two decades. To satisfy the demand from gadgets will require building the equivalent of 560 coal-fired power plants, or 230 nuclear plants. Most energy experts see only one solution: mandatory efficiency rules specifying how much power devices may use. More...





Google plans new mirror for cheaper solar power

solar mirror Google is disappointed with the lack of breakthrough investment ideas in the green technology sector but the company is working to develop its own new mirror technology that could reduce the cost of building solar thermal plants by a quarter or more. Google is looking to cut the cost of making heliostats, the fields of mirrors that have to track the sun, by at least a factor of two, "ideally a factor of three or four."
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Largest Offshore Wind Farm to Go Online

offshore wind farm The world’s largest offshore wind farm is expected to go into operation on Thursday at a site 30 kilometers off the coast of Denmark. The farm, called Horns Rev 2 and built by a Danish utility, Dong Energy, consists of 91 turbines made by Siemens, a German engineering company, spread over a 35-square kilometer area. The farm is projected to generate 209 megawatts or enough electricity to supply 200,000 households.
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Have a Nice Day

solar panels With more than 50,000 new jobs, the renewable energy industry in Germany is now second only to its auto industry. One thing that has never existed in America — with our fragmented, stop-start solar subsidies — is certainty of price, connectivity and regulation on a national basis. So, right now, our federal and state subsidies for installing solar systems are largely paying for the cost of importing solar panels made in China, by Chinese workers, using hi-tech manufacturing equipment invented in America.
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Video Interview: Ian Wright of Wrightspeed, Inc. on Electric Cars

cell phone Would you be more inclined to buy an eco-friendly electric car if it could also leave Porsches and Ferraris in the dust? Now, thanks to a revolution in drive train technogies, you can have it both ways.

Electric vehicles have been around for more than a century. Heavy, ugly, slow, expensive, with short range and short life, they have been limited to golf carts and forklifts. From grocery getters to Formula One cars, pistons and gears have been the hot technology. That's about to change. More...

Video Interview: Pravin Madhani, Mentor Graphics

cell phone Video interview with Pravin Madhani, GM of Mentor Graphics Place and Route Division, by John Donovan, Editor/Publisher of Low-Power Design. Conducted at the EDA Tech Forum in Santa Clara, CA, September 9, 2009. In particular we wanted to know: How can you do reliable physical verification at 32 nm and below? How effective is multi-corner, multi-mode optimization in increasing the energy efficiency of an SoC design? What are the major hurdles that physical design and layout software have yet to surmount, and what sort of progress can we hope for in the next few years?
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Voice-over-Wi-Fi Implementation with Single Stream 802.11n

cell phone The growth of wireless networks based on the IEEE 802.11 Wireless LAN family of standards has been one of the most outstanding success stories of the technology industry in recent years. Apart from the standards themselves, the universal pervasion of WLANs has been assisted and accelerated by the availability of interoperability testing and certification by the Wi-Fi Alliance – so much so that the term “Wi-Fi” is widely used interchangeably with “WLAN.” In this article we provide a background to VoWiFi performance by examining the factors that enable it to provide a satisfying user experience. We elaborate on some of these requirements and describe how they are implemented in VoWiFi devices.
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Out of a Job? Create One!

jobs Being talented at engineering doesn’t correlate directly—or even closely—with being talented at doing business. Even if you think you have a knack for business, you still need to complete your R&D, build a prototype, prepare a marketing plan and a business plan, put together a team and stay alive until you can find the money to fund all your plans. That’s where technology incubators come into play.
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Mobile Processors Target Next Generation Mobile Consumer Devices

cell phone The mobile market is the highest growth end segment for the semiconductor industry. Many consumer electronics devices still use MCUs and ASICs. However, devices such as smartphones, MIDs, and mini-notes require higher level functionality, programmability, and connectivity. As a result, these mobile consumer devices are increasingly shifting toward merchant market processors, reports In-Stat.
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Wi-Fi Connectivity Becoming Pervasive on Devices

cell phone Wi-Fi enabled products continue to proliferate across nearly all categories, including computing, networking, consumer electronics and mobile devices. Over 1,000 new products were launched with Wi-Fi in 2008; 2009 promises to surpass that mark, reports In-Stat. Among the key growth areas is stationary consumer electronics (CE) devices with Wi-Fi. Stationary CE devices include products that require access to a power source, such as televisions and digital photo frames.
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£10 Million Sea Power Challenge

sea power Scotland is finalizing the terms of a contest in wave and tidal energy that takes inspiration from the prize that prompted Lindbergh's transatlantic flight in 1927 and successors like the X Prizes and the Virgin Earth Challenge. Dubbed the Saltire Prize, after the cross that is the central element in Scotland's flag, the prize of £10 million (about US $16 million) will be awarded in five years. Contestants will need the time to devise and demonstrate their technology because, by all accounts, Saltire is a very challenging challenge, so much so that only a Scottish company may be able to win it.
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U.S. Broadband Internet Speeds Lag Behind Other Advanced Nations
cell towers
Fixed line internet speeds in the USA have increased by only 1.6 megabits per second (mbps), from 3.5 mbps in 2007 to 5.1 mbps in 2009, reports the Communications Workers of America (CWA). At this rate, it will take the United States 15 years to catch up with current Internet speeds in South Korea, the country with the fastest average Internet connections. The 2009 Speed Test shows that only 20 percent of those who took the test have Internet speeds in the range of the top ranked countries - including South Korea, Japan and Sweden. Also noted was that 18 percent do not even meet the FCC definition for basic broadband as an always-on Internet connection of at least 768 kbps downstream.
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CPU, Heal Thyself
cpu
Sometimes, it’s worthwhile to abuse microprocessors: You can achieve increased performance by overclocking chips or decreased power consumption by running them at a lower voltage. But eliminating safety margins means that processors will occasionally make mistakes. With clever error detection and correction circuits, chips can be pushed right to their limit.
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FCC Launches Formal Probe of Wireless Industry
cell towers
The FCC has formally announced plans to launch a wide-ranging probe into the U.S. wireless industry. The commission plans to investigate multiple issues in the wireless industry, including consumer protection and competitive business practices. Its plans were outlined in its agenda for a Thursday, Aug. 27, meeting, which also states that the FCC will consider an inquiry "to understand better the factors that encourage innovation and investment in wireless."
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Moving Forward On Smart Grid
smart grid
Today’s power grid in America is a relic of the 20th Century. The idea behind smart grid is to inject a two-way information layer into the electricity distribution process. Smart grid components include advanced home meters, new grid management techniques and software. At the home or business, smart grid can aid conservation by showing customers their power usage and offering real-time choices about when they use electricity. Scaling up, smart grids allow utility managers to constrain peak load requirements through a combination of consumer incentives and accurate diagnosis of demand. Ultimately, smart grid technologies can open the door for more plug-in electric cars and vehicles. Added together, the impact of smart grid may help craft an environmentally-sustainable way of the life for the 21st Century. More...

"They're here!": Plastic Semiconductors
plastics
Plastic that conducts electricity holds promise for cheaper, thinner and more flexible electronics. This technology is already available in some gadgets -- the new Sony walkman that was introduced earlier this summer and the Microsoft Zune HD music player released last week both incorporate organic light-emitting electronic displays. Until now, however, circuits built with organic materials have allowed only one type of charge to move through them.

New research from the University of Washington makes charges flow both ways. The cover article in an upcoming issue of the journal Advanced Materials describes an approach to organic electronics that allows transport of both positive and negative charges.
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Virage Logic Announces Intent to Acquire ARC International
Virage Logic logo August 18, 2009 -- Virage Logic Corporation today announced its intent to acquire publicly held ARC International plc. The proposed acquisition would expand Virage Logic's ability to serve the global semiconductor market by complementing its existing portfolio of physical IP and standards-based advanced interface IP with ARC’s processor IP, a necessary component for complex System-on-Chip (SoC) integrated circuits. More...

Wally Rhines: How Green Is My Silicon Valley?

Wally Rhines Mentor Graphics CEO Wally Rhines hosted a panel at DAC titled "How Green Is My Silicon Valley?" Low-Power Design wanted to know:
* Just how green is your Silicon Valley?
* Is green just the flavor of the month or is it here to stay?
* What impact do you think the shift toward green engineering will have on various components of the electronics industry?
* How would you describe the current state of the EDA industry, and how do you think it will—or should—change over the next few years?
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Smart Grids Bring Opportunities for EDA and Embedded Software Companies

Given the billions of dollars that are expected to flow into projects related to the smart grid, it is no surprise that hi tech companies are all lining up for a piece of the pie. Looking down the supply chain, it would then stand to reason that the EDA industry and the embedded software industry can hope to gain a small share of the dollars flowing from this initiative. More...

The Electronics Industry: The Power to Change

If Thomas Edison had known what his initial inventions would spawn, would he be delighted or horrified? The answer is probably a little bit of both. Given the amazing technological innovations over the past 150 years, and the dramatic improvements to our everyday quality of life, Mr. Edison surely would be pleased. However, these technological advances have come at a price. More...

What Can Engineers Do About Global Warming?

earth On November 17, 2007 the UN released the final report of its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the group that won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for their work. Normally understated UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, described climate change as “the defining challenge of our age.” The ministerial meeting in Bali a few months later resulted in agreement that something needs to be done soon. The devil is in the details, of course, but it's finally possible to be cautiously optimistic. More...

The LED's Dark Secret blue LED

The blue light-emitting diode, arguably the greatest optoelectronic advance of the past 25 years, harbors a dark secret: Crank up the current and its efficiencies will plummet. The problem is known as droop, and it’s not only puzzling the brightest minds in the field, it’s also threatening the future of the electric lighting industry. Tech visionaries have promised us a bright new world where cool and efficient white LEDs, based on blue ones, will replace the wasteful little heaters known as incandescent lightbulbs. More than a dozen countries have already enacted legislation that bans, or will soon ban, incandescent bulbs. But it’s hard to imagine LEDs dislodging incandescents and coming to dominate the world electric lighting industry, unless we can defeat droop. More...

Future of Low-Power Chips in Doubt

Engineers at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) say that the basic theory explaining the origin of a certain type of noise produced by very small transistors is totally wrong. Known as random telegraph noise, this aberrant signal is becoming a problem for static RAM and flash memory, and it will also become a threat to future low-power logic circuits as their dimensions continue to shrink and the voltage at which they operate decreases. More...

Sometimes low-power design means picking the right IP

Most people today think of design for low power in terms of voltage islands, multiple threshold voltages, clock gating, power gating, or dynamic voltage-frequency scaling. All of these procedures apply either at the transistor level or to the power and clock nets that support the logic. And all have been boosted by at least some degree of design automation: you capture your power intent in a database, do power-efficient floorplanning, use a power-aware synthesis tool, a power-optimizing CTS tool, and so on. More...

CPF and UPF Converge

San Francisco, CA -- July 29, 2009 (DAC) -- At DAC two years ago Cadence launched it’s Common Power Format (CPF), while down the hall Mentor, Synopsys, Magma and several semiconductor firms launched the rival Uniform Power Format (UPF). Cadence wanted to keep control of its power specification format, to which its competitors took huge exception. For a long time it looked as if ne’er the twain would meet. Having two rival power specs is a real disservice to the design community. More...

Empire Off the Grid

Segue inventor Dean Kamen is turning his private island into a proof of concept for zero-net energy. In the basement of the main house on his private island is a pristine concrete bunker outfitted with a command station that can monitor and control all aspects of the production and consumption of electric power on the island. More...

Sensor Networks—Motes, Smart Spaces, and Beyond

Sensor networks have come a long way since their humble beginnings in DARPA-funded academic research projects in the 1990s and have morphed into a significant research area in their own right. Over the last decade or so, networked sensing devices have become embedded all around us. In this article we look at how sensor network research and applications have evolved and how emerging trends could determine where they're headed. More...

Mentor Graphics Unveils Android and Embedded Linux Strategy with Acquisition of Embedded Alley

DESIGN AUTOMATION CONFERENCE (DAC), San Francisco, Calif., July 30, 2009 – At a press conference this afternoon Mentor Graphics Corporation unveiled its Android and Linux strategy, including the acquisition of Embedded Alley Solutions, Inc. (San Jose, CA). More...

What’s In a Chip? Reverse Engineer It to Find Out

July 28, 2009--I had an interesting meeting today at DAC with Julia Elvidge, the president of Chipworks. Chipworks basically reverse engineers chips to find out exactly what makes them tick. The results may surprise you—they certainly did me. More...

ARM, Chartered, IBM, Samsung and Synopsys Collaborate to Deliver Vertically-Optimized Solution for 32/28-nm Mobile SoC Designs

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – July 27, 2009 ARM, Chartered Semiconductor, IBM, Samsung Electronics and Synopsys today announced at the Design Automation Conference (DAC) an agreement to develop a comprehensive technology enablement solution for the design and manufacture of mobile Internet-optimized devices. The objective of this collaboration is to leverage innovations in material science, mobile multimedia implementation and SoC design to lower risk and improve time-to-market for advanced mobile products. More...

CPF and UPF Converge
This afternoon Cadence’s Qi Wang, vice-chair of the Low-Power Coalition Technical Steering Group, addressed the Low-Power Coalition Workshop: Advances in Low-Power Design Throughout the Design Flow. According to Wang, “Interoperability between CPF and UPF to support multi-vendor tools flow is a major focus for Si2’s Low-Power Coalition in 2009.” More...

Breaking the Grid Lock
As innovation has transformed much of the global economy, America's electric power grid has remained based upon technologies that have been virtually unchanged for decades. In parallel with an increasing public awareness of global warming and the need for sustainable supplies of energy, the potential benefits of a robust, intelligent, interactive grid have become a centerpiece of policy discussions and an emerging research focus for the Department of Energy. More...

Mobile Wireless Use Up Sharply
A report by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project shows that one-third of Americans (32%) have used a cell phone or Smartphone to access the internet for emailing, instant-messaging, or information-seeking. This level of mobile internet is up by one-third since December 2007, when 24% of Americans had ever used the internet on a mobile device. On the typical day, nearly one-fifth (19%) of Americans use the internet on a mobile device, up substantially from the 11% level recorded in December 2007. That’s a growth of 73% in the 16 month interval between surveys. More...

The RF Challenge in Portable Designs
In simpler times most designs were digital. Add a few converters to handle I/O and you could ship the product. Consumer electronics—and cell phones in particular—changed all that. Now there are few consumer designs that don’t involve a large analog/mixed-signal component as well as multiple RF chains. Adding a few ADCs and DACs to the signal path isn’t enough; the three worlds are now heavily intertwined. More...

First Affordable Fuel Cells for Mobile Gear
According to the U.S. Fuel Cell Council, an industry association, there are at least 40 different fuel cells for portable, stationary, and transportation applications. But as recently as last August, industry analysts were saying that fuel cells that were both small and cheap enough to power cellphones, PDAs, and digital cameras were still ”a year or so away.” Medis Technologies, in New York City, seems to have proved them wrong. More...

ENN Solar Energy Launches New Silicon Thin Film Solar Modules With Tandem Junction Technology
At the Intersolar North America 2009 convention in San Francisco, ENN Solar Energy Co., Ltd. (ennsolar.com) announced the launch of new silicon thin film solar products with the innovative "tandem junction" technology. The power output per installed Watt is much higher than that of conventional photovoltaic (PV) cells. More...

RTOS - The Heart of Good Power Management
Low power consumption is an essential requirement in many embedded applications. The growing importance of battery-powered applications for portable electronics, home automation and wireless communications—for example, in medical devices, personal navigation devices, sports watches and portable game consoles—means that the demand for improved battery life is growing dramatically. More...

Pink Silicon Is the New Black
A material dubbed black silicon has shown great promise for making cheaper, more sensitive light detectors and imaging devices, while potentially taking advantage of established silicon manufacturing methods. But one of black silicon's key characteristics--a forest of microscopic cones that form on its surface and give the material its black color--may not be as important as it first appeared to be. More...

wind turbine Tilting in the breeze
FAR out to sea, the wind blows faster than it does near the coast. A turbine placed there would thus generate more power than its inshore or onshore cousins. But attempts to build power plants in such places have foundered because the water is generally too deep to attach a traditional turbine’s tower to the seabed. More...

The start of something big?
IT IS an old idea. Build solar power stations in the Sahara desert and transport the electricity produced to Europe using high-voltage, direct-current (HVDC) cables. It is simple in theory, but hard in practice—and very, very costly. But it is a carbon-dioxide-free way of making a lot of electricity, and a collecting area the size of Austria could supply the world. More...

London’s Iconic Red Buses Go Green
The Volvo B5L buses use a parallel hybrid I-SAM (Integrated Starter, Alternator, Motor) system created by Volvo. The system combines the power of an electric motor with a diesel engine. More...

Nanopillar Solar Cells
A new solar-cell design could cut costs and is suitable for large-scale flexible panels. More...

Germany's Green-Energy Gap
Germany stumbles in its move to replace coal and nuclear power with offshore wind energy More...

Can I Clean Your Clock?
We can either invest in policies to build U.S. leadership in these [clean tech] industries and jobs today, or we can continue with business as usual and buy windmills from Europe, batteries from Japan and solar panels from Asia. More...

The other kind of solar power
Think of solar power, and you probably think of photovoltaic panels. But there is another way to make electricity from sunlight, which arguably has even brighter prospects. More...

The SPIRIT Consortium Approves IP-XACT Version 1.5
John Donovan, Editor-in-Chief

The SPIRIT Consortium has approved version 1.5 of its IP-XACT specification for handoff to the IEEE P1685 working group. Building on the IP-XACT 1.4 specification, this version of IP-XACT extends the IP-XACT data model to more complete description of the register data and address maps. More...

Intel Advances on Multiple Fronts Against ARM
John Donovan, Editor-in-Chief, Low-Power Design

If you’ve been developing embedded systems for a while, chances are you’re working with either an ARM or 8051 device, the latter being Intel’s bequest to embedded developers before abandoning them over 20 years ago for the more lucrative PC market. More...

The power of being made very small
BIG improvements in the production of energy, especially from renewable sources, are expected over the coming years. Safer nuclear-power stations, highly efficient solar cells and the ability to extract more energy from the wind and the sea are among the things promised. But important breakthroughs will be needed for these advances to happen, mostly because they require extraordinary new materials. More...

Better Lithium-ion Batteries
A new incarnation of lithium-ion batteries based on solid polymers is in the works. Berkeley, CA-based startup Seeo, Inc. says its lithium-ion cells will be safer, longer-lasting, lighter, and cheaper than current batteries. Seeo's batteries use thin films of polymer as the electrolyte and high-energy-density, light-weight electrodes. More...

Sensors for Tracking Home Water Use
Within the next few years, household utilities could be itemized as well, allowing residents to track their usage and see which devices utilize the most electricity, water, or gas. New sensor technology that consists of a single device for each utility, which builds a picture of household activity by tracing electrical wiring, plumbing, and gas lines back to specific devices or fixtures, could make this far simpler to implement. More...

How Smart Can You and Your Local Electricity Grid Get?
Key smart grid elements being tested in Boulder residences are the electricity meter, which communicates the home's usage to the utility in real time; the home portal, where homeowners can track and control electricity usage; various kinds of connectors and adapters that make individual appliances and devices programmable; and a plug-in electric car that will draw electricity from the grid when it's cheap and plentiful but feed electricity back when it's scarce. More...






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