Those of us who live in the Bay Area (loosely defined as the area from San Francisco in the north to Silicon Valley in the south) are blessed with the confluence of technology and artistic creativity. The two forces collided in early May in what has become yet another tourist attraction.
A two-mile section of the Bay Bridge connecting San Francisco to Yurba Buena Island was powered up (so to speak) with a Philips Color Kinetics lighting system that rivals the synchronous water show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, if only by its sheer scale. Before reading further, be sure to have a look.
This remarkable light show will play nightly for two years. The cost for electricity? About $15 a night, thanks to remarkable advances in customized power management. Each dimmable LED — and there are about 25,000 in the nearly 4.5 miles of cabling — will draw only about 1W each at maximum intensity.
A friend of mine said, “Wow, they did an excellent job of power management.” I said, “Maybe, but I think they did a better job of financial management.”
How many times in a day or a week do we hear or read the term “power management?” A lot. Every newsletter I get (and I get several) has multiple references to power management. It really is an overworked cliché. What engineer doesn't make power management (oops, I used it, too) a design priority? Engineers have thousands of options for managing their product power requirements. How can you tell if one option is really any better than the other for a given application?
One solution would be to marry the old cliché with a new term: financial management. Basically, it asks how much it costs you to get the result. If you're an engineer and that sent a shiver down your spine, don't worry. There's no need to cross paths with your finance department. This is easy, especially if you use multiple buck, boost, and/or LDO devices in your product.
Plot your total parts cost and lifetime volumes on the graph below. Depending on where you land, your excellent power management design may or may not be a good financial solution. If not, you should consider a custom Analog iASIC or an integrated ASIC. These are full custom designs embodying all the functions and features you use in your discrete, multi-IC approach. They're surprisingly inexpensive, with total NRE and tooling costs typically between $125K and $350K. Check with your preferred Analog ASIC supplier for details. The chart below includes amortization of these costs.