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Green Engineering

Embedded Computing for Energy Efficieny: More than Just Vendor Marketing Hype

RICHARD DEAN, VENTURE DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION

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According to the 2010 Annual Energy Outlook, published yearly by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), total electricity consumption, including both purchases from electric power producers and on-site generation, will increase at an average annual rate of 1% through to 2035. Further, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions will also increase proportionally over the same period. As this statistical data obviously suggests, in real terms, domestic energy production and energy imports combined are rising to meet ever-increasing energy demand.  

However, on a per capita basis, energy consumption is actually predicted to gradually decline through 2035. Over the next 25 years, energy efficiency gains are actually predicted to reduce total consumption by 15% (on a per capita basis) from where it would otherwise be. What’s driving this decline? According to EIA administrator Dr. Richard Newell, “Structural changes in the economy, higher energy prices, emerging standards and improved efficiency,” are all playing a part in creating economic, political and environmental change. 

While this somewhat conflicting data may present observers with slightly contradictory storylines, there is no doubt that technology companies—including many embedded chip, board and systems vendors—are increasingly interested in designing, developing, integrating and shipping more efficient embedded technologies. And, many customers are now requesting more intelligent embedded computing technologies, which VDC believes takes this to a level beyond mere vendor marketing hype.    

Chip-maker, Intel, for instance, introduced earlier this year new “smart” processors for embedded applications that offer both improved performance and better power management. The Core processors that were adopted from the desktop line-up for embedded market segments include the 32nm dual-core Core i5-660 and Core i3-540, and the 45nm quad-core Core i7-860 and Core i5-750. In addition, the shift toward multicore is becoming ever more pronounced. “In the embedded space, Intel is seeing more and more migration to multicore, a trend that started in 2008 and continues unabated,” said Frank Schapfel, product line marketing manager, Intel Performance Products Division.

 IBM is extending its influence in the “green IT” movement beyond just new embedded boards and systems and into the broader theme of the smart, connected planet. Based on optimization of infrastructure through an integrated service management platform (ISM), the concept, officially announced at IBM’s 2010 Pulse event, is best illustrated as an interconnected network of devices and software that brings transparency, control and automation to enterprises and consumers.  

Going one level higher, IBM is now asking its supply chain of 28,000 partners, to begin tracking, reporting and reducing their environmental impact, according to published reports. Without setting specific targets, the company’s global suppliers are being asked to monitor their energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, waste and recycling with data management systems. Further, they are then asked to approach their own subcontractors in order to monitor their performance, as well. 

While VDC believes it may be premature to forecast with any real precision the direct economic impact “intelligent” embedded computing technology will have over the next decade, we will be closely evaluating these trends around specific vertical industry applications within our forthcoming published research.   

Venture Development Corporation
Natick, MA. 
(508) 653-9000. 
[www.vdcresearch.com].