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Source: “Greendroid: Esploring the next evolution in smart-phone application processors” STEVEN SWANSON AND MICHAEL BEDFORD TAYLOR”
RESULTS: Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, proposed a chip design that is specialized for Android mobile devices. They showed that the chip could be 11 times as energy efficient as a conventional mobile processor in running Google’s Android mobile operating system and popular apps.
WHY IT MATTERS: The capabilities of smart phones and other mobile computing devices are limited by the capacity of theirbatteries. For decades, computer processors have steadily gotten faster while their power consumption has stayed the same, but transistors are now so small that they cannot be operated faster or packed more densely onto a chip without an increase in power use. New ways to make mobile chips more efficient must be found if mobile devices are to continue gaining computing ability and taking on new functions.
METHODS: To make the chips, software was used to record the computational tasks a phone faced when running popular apps for e-mail, maps, video, and the Web radio service Pandora, among others. A tool developed by the researchers then translated the most commonly used code from those apps into specialized physical circuits to be added to the chip design. Those circuits closely mimic the information processing specified by the app code, enabling the chip to perform its most common tasks much more efficiently than a general-purpose computer processor.
NEXT STEPS: The researchers have partnered with chip manufacturer Global Foundries to produce a physical proof-of-concept prototype, which is expected to be ready by late summer. The prototype chip will use transistors smaller than those currently on the market, with feature sizes as small as 28 nanometers. (The most advanced chips available today have 32 nanometer features.) It will be installed in a prototype mobile device running a real operating system and apps so that its energy efficiency can be compared with that of conventional chips. A second prototype chip designed to handle a wider range of Android applications is expected to be ready by the middle of next year.