Consumers want their electronic gizmos to run from batteries for weeks, months, and sometimes years between recharges or primary cell replacements. Some devices are even harvesting their power from the environment. Achieving these feats means processors must be positively anorexic in their electron intake. And that suggests we need equipment to profile a product's power usage.
Recently I reviewed the µCurrent, a small device designed to help monitor current consumption down to the nA range. It's aimed mostly at those who need accurate measurements of static power. It won't help profile a system that's dynamically going from nA to mA and back, since there's a range switch that has to be manipulated manually.
A brand new unit has appeared: the Real-Time Current Monitor (I'll call it the RTCM, uncomfortably close to the acronym used to suggest one should consult a manual rather than ask questions). This device is rather innovative and a bit different from any other current monitor.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.