Can signal processing save the world? That may sound like a silly question unless you are familiar with digital signal controllers (DSCs). (See my June 4 blog for a quick definition of DSCs.) But before I get into a discussion of DSCs, a little background is needed.
Global warming is one of the greatest threats facing the planet. Recent reports from the IPCC made this fact clear. Its first report states that global warming is almost certainly occurring, and it is almost certainly caused by humans. A later report said that humans must change their energy-consumption patterns soon or face disastrous consequences.
The good news is that we engineers can solve the problem. In his speech at ESC, Al Gore argued that many of our energy problems can be solved by designing more intelligent embedded systems. I completely agree, and this leads me to my point about DSCs.
DSCs can provide enormous energy savings in applications like variable-speed motors. Variable-speed motors are easily twice as efficient as fixed-speed motors. This presents a major opportunity to save power. For example, two-thirds of industrial electricity is used to power electric motors, and nearly all of these motors currently use fixed-speed drives.
In case you think that corporations and consumers will somehow miss the benefits of saving power, don't worry—government mandates will also push us use less power. Just last week, for example, the US Senate passed new automotive fuel economy standards. DSCs will play a big role here in achieving these savings, as they will control fuel saving devices ranging from hybrid drivetrains to electric power steering.
I could go on with countless other examples, but you get the point: We have the technology to solve this problem. Now let's get to work!