Electrical efficiency of computing is growing exponentially

Most people are familiar with Moore’s Law, the doubling of computer power roughly every 18 months. But as technology becomes more mobile “Koomey’s Law” may be more relevant to consumers. Dr. Jon Koomey and his colleagues recently completed a study showing that energy consumption for computing is improving just as fast as processing power. At left, is a chart from a their paper “Implications of Historical Trends in the Electrical Efficiency of Computing”. The paper is highlighted in the latest issue of MIT’s Technology Review, where Dr. Koomey explains:

“The idea is that at a fixed computing load, the amount of battery you need will fall by a factor of two every year and a half,” says Jonathan Koomey, consulting professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University and lead author of the study. More mobile computing and sensing applications become possible, Koomey says, as energy efficiency continues its steady improvement.

The battery size and battery life of an iPad or Android phone is one of the biggest design constraints. Furthermore, in the next five years, we may see a trillion small computing devices blanket the planet as the Internet of Things awakens. Understanding Koomey’s Law will be the key to making this possible. Progress is happening on many different fronts.

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