Not a software problem…

August 28, 2018

It must be admitted that for some types of SW development, the statement that energy consumption is not a SW problem is true. By “not being a SW problem” we mean that energy consumption either cannot be monitored easily, that certain methods of optimization are barely available or give low effect, or that monitoring and optimization add expenses that will never be returned. However, the statement is often mentioned where it actually is not true. There is no complete and impeccable method to determine how deep energy optimization can and should be performed for a particular product. Nevertheless, verifying your situation against the checklist below may lead to some interesting opportunities. Feedback is, as ever, greatly appreciated!

Again, software affects energy consumption, and the SW developer is as responsible for it as HW, mechanical, RF and other engineers. The goal with this list is to make SW developer efforts more efficient and practical. So, energy optimization is on your task list IF:

  1. HW is being developed within an arm´s length. If you do have access to pre-production prototypes, use them to see how your code affects system components and total consumption.
  2. You have access to configuration of CPU and peripherals. The SW developer is then responsible for selecting appropriate power modes and timely switching between them.
  3. SW architecture is designed in-house. Custom firmware, unlike a kernel or framework, does not need to be universal and can be well optimized for performance and low consumption.

If you are checking off all the criteria above, you’re most likely in a bare metal world. Welcome… Regardless, it´s time to get acquainted with benchtop multimeters, SMUs, oscilloscopes, or Otii (of course!) …

But even if you’re developing a custom app for a smartphone OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), it won’t hurt to request a breakdown board from the prototype workshop or ask for help to do this and verify your application.

Why do that? Well, not only for the obvious reasons to get happy customers, think and act sustainable, and lots of other noble ones… Do it because you can! You’re the master of this code. Do it because no one else in the whole wide world can do it as well and as smooth as you. Do it to beat that other team who don’t. Do it because your manager will boast about it to the higher-ups so you two will get some cred. Do it because you can report extra hours for it face. Do it for any secret reason you won’t tell even to your pillow. Simply do it.

Embedded Ed

Edward Popkov is Qoitech’s senior power optimization engineer, with over 30 years of experience in Software development, project management and evaluation of power consumption and software optimization for portable battery-powered devices, including smartphones, tablets and MTC LTE equipment.

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