PHARAON project bets on parallel processors to reduce energy consumption
April 11, 2012 // Julien Happich
Thales and its partners have been granted 3.7 million euros to pursue the PHARAON project (Parallel and Heterogeneous Architecture for Real-time ApplicatiONs).
Funded by the European Commission under the FP7 framework programme, it focuses on the use of parallel architectures to increase the performance of embedded electronic systems while significantly reducing the amount of electricity they use.
Electronic systems are an integral part of our lives today. According to a recent study by the International Energy Agency (IEA), we use between 20 and 30 different electronic systems every day, from smartphones to the embedded systems in our cars and GPS, tablet computers and other devices. The IEA estimates that the combined electricity consumption of these systems amounted to 800 TWh in 2011 and expects this figure to double by 2030. Reducing the amount of electricity they use has therefore become a priority, not only to increase their time between charges, but also to limit their environmental impact.
This constant quest for energy efficiency calls for new and innovative technologies. One of the avenues that the European Commission is particularly keen to investigate is multicore processors (as opposed to conventional single-core processors), which is the subject of the PHARAON project.
Multicore systems offer a number of specific advantages:
- They can perform multiple tasks at the same time, so cores with a lower clock rate can be used.
- As activity levels are reduced, cores run at lower speeds.
- Each core can be specialised for a different type of application.
- The system is thus able to adapt to the user's specific requirements, and less energy is wasted as a result.
But systems based on parallel architectures, i.e. with multiple cores, are complex, which in turn means they take longer and cost more money to design and develop. To make this technology more accessible and less expensive, the European Commission has launched the PHARAON project.
PHARAON is a collaborative research project involving academic and industry partners in Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. Their goal is to establish new concepts and paradigms to support the development of electronic systems with higher performance and lower energy consumption. Their work focuses on three key areas:
The first is to conceive methods and tools to support the development of software to enable these multicore processors and systems to operate at optimal efficiency. This is complex, because tasks within the application must be broken down into distinct parts, each of which is then processed by one or other of the cores. For this to work, all the cores in parallel, not just one or two, must be running at optimal.
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