Power and current consumption is an important topic for designs ranging from small, battery-powered devices to large motors, appliances, and industrial equipment. One of the many tasks that engineers have to do is analyze the likely consumption of various potential designs, to establish the locus of performance, price, and power tradeoffs.
For AC-line powered devices, it's not too difficult to measure power. You can get a rough answer with a unit such as the Kill A Watt from P3 International (here, $20 to $60, depending on model), or go for a more sophisticated instrument that gives you more details of average, peak, real, and reactive power.
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.