Power's expanding intelligence

Alix Paultre, Editorial Director, PSD


The use of logic-driven powered sub-systems is expanding into an increasing number of application areas

Each turn of the technology wheel brings with it new disruptions and new opportunities. In the area of power, the recent explosion of advanced microcontrollers has enabled designers and product manufacturers to put intelligent powered subsystems into applications where no controlled solution previously existed. This explosion of intelligently-powered subsystems brings with it design challenges on power management and system oversight only just now being addressed by the industry. The Internet of Things The Internet of Things (IoT) has shadings of meaning, depending on the person you are talking to and what market and application segment they are involved in. At this point IoT means more as a promise than as a reality, while companies incorporate cloud-based infrastructures into their existing processes and products. Once those systems start communicating more with one another, and the return on investment (ROI) becomes more apparent to the market leaders, those micro-nets of things joined by common application languages or service providers will eventually become a relatively seamless network of systems. The challenge to the industry is to ensure that the systems, processes, and devices manufacturers develop have the scale- and flexibility to migrate towards a more cooperative communications, management, and data-sharing environment. Power efficiency in any IoT would be a paramount issue, as housekeeping activity cannot be allowed to impact device battery operating time to any significant extent, or take too much from the power budget in cable-tethered systems. The Smart Grid Means to interrogate and control a product's power usage will have significant impact on quality-of-life, especially in areas where large-scale waste of power by improperly operated and unnecessary loads is a problem. The ability for a power supply like a wall-wart to potentially interrogate its load via its USB connector, and communicate that information to the house's smart meter and thereby to the grid, will change the game in municipal energy efficiency from one of reaction to events to one of controlling events. The rising number of continuously (or near-continuous) motor-driven applications in a home (and business) has increased significantly in the last couple of decades, and it isn't going to go down from here. Intelligent powered subsystems can enable more accurate power management from inside the product all the way up the grid. Military Military systems have a lot to gain from intelligent powered subsystems. From better team-served weaponry to individual soldier's gear, the systems both currently being fielded and those on the horizon are powerful force multipliers. The benefits of a battlefield of smart things may be restricted to whatever mobile ad-hoc network the systems are reporting to, but the commander of that battlefield would have a much greater level of intelligence and oversight from system telemetry of all major systems on a field. Power Systems Design