Entering the era of the mobile internet, in which most electronic devices can also connect to the internet, means that "the cloud" will start to define the software platforms, which will in turn define hardware requirements, Muller asserted. And counter-intuitively this will imply that client devices will have to become more like clients.
In the context of connectivity the example was given of the need for deep-packet inspection to be able to make power-saving decisions about which communications channels are appropriate.
"The devices in your pocket are going to have to do what currently is being done by Cisco," said Muller, before adding that the Internet of things, where almost everything has an IP address and can communicate, including mote-like sensors embedded in paint, would take this yet further.
One possibility that could help power consumption at the hardware level would be to operate transistors at below the voltage threshold, which could take voltages down to 0.5-V. However, that is unlikely to happen in the near term, except in specialized research cases, said Muller.
"If you really want to save power the laws of physics may say it is a good idea, but you are still trading off performance against voltage; you could only get a few hundred kilohertz of clock frequency. And because there is no major demand, it is not possible to get foundries to produce qualified silicon," Muller said.
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