The University of Southampton

Researchers to develop reliable low-power computing systems

Published: 3 July 2009

Researchers in ECS have been awarded funding to develop efficient test methods to improve the reliability of low-power computing systems.

The project team led by Professor Bashir Al-Hashimi, a co-director of the Pervasive Systems Centre at ECS, and co-investigator, Professor Mark Zwolinski, also from ECS, in conjunction with ARM (UK), and Synopsys (USA), has been awarded £352,400 from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The team aims to improve the reliability of low-power embedded computing systems of the type used in mobile devices such as mobile phones, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and iPods.

According to Professor Al-Hashimi, computing systems used in hand-held products are extremely complex with millions of transistors of nano-meter dimensions operating with very low voltages to reduce power consumption.

A current challenge for designers and manufacturers is to develop efficient test methods for these computing systems which operate at such low voltages, so that any defects are identified after manufacturing and can be corrected leading to more reliable end products.

‘If we use existing methods to identify defective integrated systems after manufacturing, without considering the systems operating voltages and semiconductor manufacturing process variation, defects will be missed by the test leading to less reliable products,’ said Professor Al-Hashimi.

The new EPSRC grant will focus on exploring and developing new and efficient test methods capable of mitigating the impact of voltage and process variation leading to improved test quality and higher dependability.

‘This funding is timely as I believe our research findings will make a major contribution to this new research area of voltage and process variation-aware test technology, consolidating our group as an internationally-leading research presence,’ Professor Al-Hashimi added.

This research is part of the ECS-ARM Centre of Excellence initiative that began in 2008, and is directed by Professor Al-Hashimi, and Dr David Flynn (ARM Fellow), and a visiting professor at ECS. ARM is a market leader in the design of high performance, low-power processors for hand-held devices.

The project will begin in January 2010 and run for three years.

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