editor's blog
Subscribe Now

Ban Power Consumption

“How much power does it consume?”

This has been a key question ever since I started work as a product engineer many years ago. Heck, back then we even published power consumption numbers, although we used ICC as a proxy – we didn’t actually publish power, but you could easily do the multiplication with VCC to get it. (Yes, this was bipolar.)

These days, the concept is even more important, what with all the focus on battery-powered whats-itses. But in deconstructing a lot of what’s going on now, there’s an interesting nuance coming to the fore: energy vs. power.

  • Energy is a “thing.” It’s something physical that has a measurable quantity.
  • Power, by contrast, is not a thing; it represents the rate of flow of a thing, namely energy.

This is more than just an academic difference. Batteries and fuel cells can store more energy than a supercapacitor can, but they release that energy at a slower rate than the supercap. So one is capable of higher energy capacity; the other of higher power. The distinction actually matters.

So I find myself tripping more and more over the familiar phrase, “power consumption.” Power isn’t a “thing,” so it can’t be consumed. Energy is a “thing,” and it can be consumed.

So “power consumption” makes no conceptual sense; “energy consumption” makes a ton of sense.

An electronic device consumes energy, but, from a practical standpoint, you can’t know the energy consumed until you know how long you’ve run the device. And you have to be able to serve up the energy to the device from your energy store at the rate the device expects, or else you’ll starve it. So “power” is ultimately involved as a critical device requirement; energy consumption not so much.

So if “power consumption” is off the table, “power requirement” seems a suitable replacement.

I will therefore labor to use either “energy consumption” or “power requirement” henceforth.

And no, I don’t expect the world to follow. (One of my many quixotic attempts to apply logic to language… like the perennial abuse of the plural of “die” and the silly overuse of @…)

Leave a Reply

featured blogs
May 27, 2020
Could life evolve on ice worlds, ocean worlds, ocean worlds covered in ice, halo worlds that are tidally locked with their sun, and rogue worlds without a sun? If so, what sort of life might it be?...
May 26, 2020
I get pleasure from good quality things. Quality is a vague term, but, to me, it is some combination of good design for usability, functionality and aesthetics, along with reliability and durability. Some of these factors can be assessed very quickly; others take time. For ex...
May 26, 2020
#robotcombat #combatrobots #robotwars #WeWantSeason5 #WeGotSeason5 These are some of the most popular hashtags used by a growing number of global BattleBots enthusiasts. Teams from all backgrounds design, build and test robots of all sizes for one purpose in mind: Robot Comba...
May 22, 2020
[From the last episode: We looked at the complexities of cache in a multicore processor.] OK, time for a breather and for some review. We'€™ve taken quite the tour of computing, both in an IoT device (or even a laptop) and in the cloud. Here are some basic things we looked ...

Featured Video

DesignWare 112G Ethernet PHY IP Insertion Loss Capabilities

Sponsored by Synopsys

This video shows the performance results of the Synopsys 112G PHY receiver to varying amounts of channel insertion loss. The IP meets the standards requirements. With leading power, performance, and area, the IP is available in a range of FinFET processes for high-performance.

Click here for more information

Featured Paper

Triple Punch Extends The Life Of Your Smart Factory Indoor BLE Beacon

Sponsored by Maxim Integrated

One emerging element of smart factories is asset management, namely the tracking of man and machine. Tracking is deployed to achieve two purposes—as a digital twin emulation mechanism to assess inefficiencies on the factory floor and as a predictive maintenance mechanism to determine impending failures. In this design solution, we review the challenges of powering a BLE beacon with a disposable battery and introduce a voltage regulator boost converter that, thanks to a triple punch of high efficiency, low shutdown current, and low quiescent current, sustains its operation for two years on a single disposable AA battery.

Click here to download the whitepaper