Low-Power Tools Lag Behind Cores

By John Blyler

Despite the preponderance of news on low power, especially at the recent Consumer Electronic Show, automated design tools have not been well received by low-power chip designers, according to a recent Chip Design Trends (CDT) “EDA Tools and Technology” survey.

These same respondents listed their primary design areas as digital logic, mixed signal and embedded processors, all areas where architectural power decisions lock-in the power usage of the end-product. But while power tools may come up short among chip designers, the processor IP manufacturers and OEMs have been steadily decreasing the energy consumption of their cores.

For example, Intel just announced its 2010 core lineup of processor platforms. Among them were several embedded processors with core power consumption far below the previous standard levels. In addition to lower power, Intel is pushing the software side of power design - at the chip and board levels. (see “New Intel Processors Benefit Embedded and Challenge Software.”)

On the mobile handset side of the market, ARM continues to makes strides in reducing its core power consumption. As James Bruce, Mobile Segment Manager for ARM puts it: “OEMs typically specify the maximum power of the processor at 300mWatts for handsets. This power limit is constrained by battery technology and the size of the consumer’s pocket.”

With battery technology advancing slowly, power tools and IP will have to take up the slack. Moreover, as lowpower becomes an important consideration in all designs, this picture is likely to change significantly.

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http://chipdesignmag. com/lpd/blog/2010/01/14/low-power-tools-lag-behindcores/