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Developing intelligent energy management for IT

The EU-funded research project SENSATION is to help companies develop embedded systems that consume less energy - among other things because they are programmed to be most active at times when they can harvest energy from e.g., solar cells.

We all know the experience of holding a mobile phone that has run low on battery in the exact moment when we need it.

- But try to imagine that your mobile phone never ran out of battery because it was programmed to harvest electricity from the energy in its surroundings - for instance kinetic energy, that is, when we move, explains professor Kim Guldstrand Larsen, director of Center of Embedded Software Systems (CISS).

He and the centre are leading the newly-started three-year-long EU-funded research project SENSATION (Self Energy-Supporting Autonomous Computation). The aim is to develop solutions that optimise the energy consumption of embedded systems - from pacemakers through sensor networks in traffic lights and to satellites.

- The IT of today is highly intelligent but also highly energy consuming. And the more intelligence we add into our applications, the more energy they demand. Just look at our smartphones. How do we schedule our tasks, so our applications are most active when they have the most optimum access to external energy sources? asks Kim Guldstrand Larsen.

Less power - more errors

Fiddling with the energy consumption of our IT systems is not without consequences.

- When we turn the power as far down as we expect to do here, our IT systems stop delivering predictable solutions the way we are more or less used to. We must expect that they start calculating wrong - albeit very rarely, but it will happen all the same. And in this connection we need to decide how large a margin of error we will accept in each individual system, Kim Guldstrand Larsen explains.

One solution could be redundancy; that is, repeating the calculation in question in order to ensure that the same result is reached every time. This is one of the things that the participants of the SENSATION project will be testing over the course of the next three years. Among the participants are one of the world's largest manufacturers of micro processers, ST Microelectronics. Another participant is Danish GomSpace, which among other things develop nano satellites.

Long-lasting satellites

- Our satellites are equipped with solar cells that produce electricity when the satellite is in the sun, and which store surplus electricity in batteries for later use, when the satellite is in darkness. Because of the size of our satellites - the most popular one is the size of a milk carton - there are natural limits to the size of the solar panels that we can install. Furthermore, the batteries lose power with time, the way we know it from our mobile phones. So it is our hope that the SENSATION project can help us to a more intelligent energy management that will make our satellites last longer, chief operating officer of GomSpace Peter Bak says.

The satellite COO emphasises that he and his colleagues are in prestigious company in the project:

- Behind SENSATION is a consortium of some of the brightest minds in Europe - universities and companies - with Aalborg University at the head. As participant, GomSpace thus gets unique access to research and knowledge that can strengthen our products.

For the project manager, there is no doubt that there is a large market potential for energy-saving embedded technology:

- That is also why so many work within green technology. But with the SENSATION project, we raise the bar a bit by attempting to utilise brand new techniques for optimising energy consumption, Kim Guldstrand Larsen points out.

For more information:

• Read more about SENSATION.
• Professor Kim Guldstrand Larsen, CISS, mobile +45 2217 1159.
• COO Peter Bak, GomSpace, mobile +454010 2331.

Source: Nyt fra AAU


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