The increasing use of portable and battery-powered equipment and growing concerns over saving energy have made power management a hot-button issue at industry trade shows and conferences. In response, semiconductor suppliers have unleashed a wave of regulators, chargers and other components designed to lower power consumption. At the same time, industry standards and design practices continue to evolve to address power-management concerns.
But implementing power management is not always straightforward. Power-management standards suited for computing systems that operate around the clock, for example, don't do as well for automotive telematics, where electrical systems may run for only short periods.
And even as the industry unveils new power-management parts and improves design strategies, feature-packed mobile phones and other devices are incorporating more functions, thus increasing power consumption and further raising the bar for designers.
The industry is responding in a number of ways. For instance, field-programmable gate arrays are using quadrant rather than single clocking structures, making it possible to partition unused segments and thus save power. And FPGAs can be designed to draw power from an external source rather than an internal charge pump, minimizing current draw.
Though hardware implementations are the main conduit to achieving power management, software plays a role. Some Bluetooth protocol modes can be used to control system-level power management. Software packages also provide hooks that designers can use to control peripheral-specific modes.
A number of protocols have arisen to address power-management concerns. The Advanced Configuration and Power Interface specification establishes power-management standards on laptops, servers and desktop computers.
As for other system issues, one key consideration is accurate sensing of temperature, which can help optimize power consumption and save on battery drain. Selecting the proper thermistor can help achieve this goal.
This week's In Focus highlights these issues and offers some solutions.