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Embedded System Design and Synthesis

Robert DickProfessorNorthwestern University

Embedded systems are special-purpose computers within devices such as cellphones, cars, and medical equipment. In the future, embedded systems will dominate general-purpose computers in volume, economic value, and frequency of user interaction. This seminar summarizes recent work to improve the quality of embedded systems and ease their design.

Memory is a scarce resource for embedded systems such as cellphones. Software applications are demanding increasing amounts of memory. However, adding RAM increases packaging cost, size, and power consumption. In this talk, we first describe CRAMES, an efficient software-based RAM compression technique for embedded systems. CRAMES more than doubles usable RAM without changes to hardware, without changes to applications, and with negligible performance and energy consumption penalties. It is used in cellphones that became available
in July 2007. This technology won a Computerworld Horizon Award (http://tinyurl.com/2syhcq).

Power is the source of the greatest problems facing both embedded and general-purpose processor designers. High-power processors rapidly deplete battery energy. High spatial and temporal power densities bring high temperatures, which result in decreased lifetime reliability. High temperatures also increase leakage power consumption, thereby closing a self-reinforcing power-temperature feedback loop. The wages of power are bulky short-lived batteries, huge heatsinks, large on-die capacitors, high server electric bills, and unreliable integrated circuits. The alternative is optimizing integrated circuit power consumption, temperature, and reliability. We will describe modeling, analysis, design, and synthesis techniques to solve these problems systematically.

Robert Dick is an Assistant Professor at the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department of Northwestern University. He received his Ph.D. degree from Princeton University and his B.S. degree from Clarkson University. He worked as a Visiting Professor at Tsinghua University's Department of Electronic Engineering and as a Visiting Researcher at NEC Labs America. Robert received an NSF CAREER award and won his department's Best Teacher of the Year award. He served as a technical program subcommittee chair for the International Conference on Hardware/Software Codesign and System Synthesis. He is an Associate Editor of IEEE Transactions on VLSI Systems and serves on the technical program committees of several embedded systems and CAD/VLSI conferences including CODES-ISSS, ICCAD, DATE, ASP-DAC, and GLSVLSI. Robert has published in the areas of embedded system synthesis, embedded operating systems, dynamic power management, low-power and temperature-aware integrated circuit design, data compression, reliability, and mobile ad-hoc network protocols.

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