Power is a big deal. Telecommunications companies are striving to save money and ingratiate themselves with customers by making their networks greener. The situation is just as pivotal regarding end users’ mobile devices. Indeed, many of the great features and functions of modern devices will be diminished if ways aren’t found to maintain power for reasonable periods of time.
Vendors and service providers know that power is a potential Achilles’ heel, and progress is being made. An introduction last week by Texas Instruments is the kind of advance that end users, and even some people in the industry, generally don’t have enough knowledge to anticipate.
GigaOm describes the approach, which will speed recharging by 30 percent and enables the battery to go further between charges:
Traditional software-controlled battery management systems – whether implemented with a microcontroller, PMIC (power management integrated circuit) or digital signal processor – are limited in their ability to predict accurate battery capacity and translate that information into run time. The new bq27530 and bq24160 chipset for 2.5-A charge rates and the bq27531 and bq24192 chipset for 4.5-A charge rates give designers greater flexibility by having the gauge control the charger directly.
How the processors operate is a big deal in driving efficiency and, consequently, battery life, according to Digital Trends. The specific challenge is that if steps aren’t taken, power demands will increase in tandem with the number of cores, or central processing units (CPUs), in devices. Manufacturers indeed are increasing the cores.
Digital Trends reports on an approach from ARM called BIG little. Used in eight core designs, it’s comprised of two processors, one with large and the other with small cores. The advance is that the task that the user is asking the device to do is assigned to an appropriately size core. ARM claims this increases efficiency and reduces power use.
TI and ARM are not the only ideas on the horizon. A lesser-known firm, SunPartner, for instance, has developed what VentureBeat describes as a 95 percent transparent, 300-micron thick solar cell that fits on or under the touchscreen. The French company says that it boosts battery power by 50 percent. The manufacturer must install a $1 or $2 module to enable SunPartner’s technology to operate.
On the bigger device front, Intel is pushing its new Haswell chip as a power saver, according to CNET:
Intel also says the fourth-generation Core chip marks the biggest increase in battery life it has ever accomplished, with notebooks in active use expected to last 50 percent longer than PCs with the third-generation chip. That means notebooks could have about nine hours of battery life compared with five to six hours in older PCs, Kirk Skaugen, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's PC business, told CNET.
Perhaps all of these companies got trumped by a high school kid. A few weeks ago, many sites, including CNN, reported that 18-year-old Eesha Khare was one of two winners of Intel’s Young Scientist Award. Her winning entry was a “super capacitor” that can recharge mobile devices in a half-minute or so. Her invention doesn’t extend battery life. But speeding recharging to that extent certainly eliminates much of the need to do so.