Batteries and Portable Power

EEMBC® to Reveal the Truth behind MCU Ultra-Low Power Claims

The Embedded Microprocessor Benchmark Consortium (EEMBC) today announced the availability of the first version of EEMBC ULPBench®, a standardized, industry-developed and endorsed method to encourage microcontroller vendors to provide application developers with accurate, reliable information that allows them to equitably compare the efficiency of microcontrollers targeted at Ultra-Low Power (ULP) applications. These extremely efficient controllers target operating battery life that must be measured in months, years, and even decades. ULP applications could include portable or implantable medical devices, security systems, building automation, smart metering, energy-harvesting devices, smart-dust environment monitoring, and a whole host of cool applications targeting the emerging Internet of Things (IoT).

ULPBench consolidates a series of tests that EEMBC will roll out over time, accounting for a broad range of microcontroller functions and power efficiency. The first version, ULPBench-CP (core profile), measures CPU core efficiency, as well as the microcontroller's real-time clock and calendar function (RTCC), and power modes. Subsequent versions will focus on real-world applications utilizing integrated hardware and peripheral functions.

"We have created a benchmarking tool that, on its surface, is simple and very easy to use, yet features many levels of complexity to ensure very accurate, repeatable, and certifiable energy measurements," said Stefan Schauer, chair of the EEMBC ULPBench working group and Application Verification & Validation Engineer at Texas Instruments (TI).

To measure CPU core efficiency, ULPBench-CP performs a variety of functions commonly found in ULP applications; among them are memory and math operations, sorting, and GPIO interaction. ULPBench-CP uses the RTCC to establish the device's duty cycle to determine when to perform the functions and when to enter a low-power mode. In addition to the software functions, the ULPBench methodology includes the EEMBC EnergyMonitor, an accurate tool for timing and measuring energy. On one side, the EnergyMonitor connects to the device under test (i.e. the microcontroller board), and on the other side to a PC through Universal Serial Bus (USB) and provides the user with an integrated Graphical User Interface (GUI) for convenient data capture and display.

"ULPBench is an enormously valuable tool to get to the truth of the manufacturer's claims of power efficiency and ultra-long battery life," said EEMBC president Markus Levy. "And as an added bonus, application developers can also use the included EnergyMonitor for testing any microcontroller device with ultra-low power requirements, with or without applying ULPBench."

"EEMBC's primary goal is to develop fair and unbiased benchmarks for the embedded industry. In support of this goal, I'd like to thank Analog Devices, ARM, Atmel, Cypress, Freescale, Microchip, Renesas, Silicon Labs, Spansion, STMicroelectronics, and TI, for contributing countless hours to ULPBench's implementation," said Levy. "But our work is ongoing, and I encourage any other companies interested in contributing, including the system manufacturers, microcontroller vendors, and tool providers, to join us in this effort as we develop the subsequent phases of ULPBench."

Embedded Microprocessor Benchmark Consortium
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