The University of Southampton

Towards reliable, low-power portable devices

Published: 6 January 2006

New research in the School of Electronics and Computer Science which could lead to the development of cheaper, more reliable portable devices has just received funding.

The project, which aims to improve the reliability of low-power embedded computing systems of the type used in devices such as mobile phones, PDAs (personal digital assistants) and digital cameras, has been awarded £250,000 from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The research is led by Professor Bashir Al-Hashimi with Professor Mark Zwolinski from the University of Southampton's School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) in conjunction with ARM UK: Architecture for the Digital World, Cambridge.

According to Professor Al-Hashimi, the incompatibilities between the existing techniques for testing the design of low-power embedded computing systems are making the development of such products an expensive process.

He commented: 'Embedded computing systems are often over-designed to allow designers to decrease development time through the reuse of the hardware over several product generations. This means that such systems will experience slack times where a reduced system performance can be tolerated and lower power can be achieved. Our project addresses this issue by developing fault tolerance and testing techniques that are compatible with low power, thus enabling cost-effective design and manufacturing of low-power electronic systems with improved reliability.'

The project, which begins in March 2006 and will run for two years, will address two main themes of research. By the end of the first theme, the researchers plan to have developed fault tolerant techniques that are capable of improving the reliability of low-power systems; by the end of the second, they plan to have developed further fault models and validated them through extensive simulation and an industry case study.

Professor Al-Hashimi concluded: 'This research will benefit industrial companies involved in the design and manufacture of low-power embedded cores, particularly for wireless communications and portable systems. To remain ahead of the field, it is important for companies to continually develop and improve their products, with a drive towards increased reliability and functionality.'

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