Energy-Driven Computing: Rethinking the Design of Energy Harvesting Systems

Geoff V. Merretta and Bashir M. Al-Hashimib
Department of Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom, SO17 1BJ.


Energy harvesting computing has been gaining increasing traction over the past decade, fueled by technological developments and rising demand for autonomous and battery-free systems. Energy harvesting introduces numerous challenges to embedded systems but, arguably the greatest, is the required transition from an energy source that typically provides virtually unlimited power for a reasonable period of time until it becomes exhausted, to a power source that is highly unpredictable and dynamic (both spatially and temporally, and with a range spanning many orders of magnitude). The typical approach to overcome this is the addition of intermediate energy storage/buffering to smooth out the temporal dynamics of both power supply and consumption. This has the advantage that, if correctly sized, the system `looks like' a battery-powered system; however, it also adds volume, mass, cost and complexity and, if not sized correctly, unreliability. In this paper, we consider energydriven computing, where systems are designed from the outset to operate from an energy harvesting source. Such systems typically contain little or no additional energy storage (instead relying on tiny parasitic and decoupling capacitance), alleviating the aforementioned issues. Examples of energy-driven computing include transient systems (which power down when the supply disappears and efficiently continue execution when it returns) and power-neutral systems (which operate directly from the instantaneous power harvested, gracefully modulating their consumption and performance to match the supply). In this paper, we introduce a taxonomy of energy-driven computing, articulating how power-neutral, transient, and energy-driven systems present a different class of computing to conventional approaches.

Keywords: Power neutral, Transient computing, Energy harvesting, Battery-free computing, Energy-driven computing.

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