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Urbana, IL 61801
Phone: (217) 244-6376
bradp@illinois.edu

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Research Leads to Reduced Power Usage in Laptop Computers

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By Brad Petersen, ECE ILLINOIS
January 1, 2006

  • Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have found a way to reduce battery consumption in laptop computers while maintaining performance quality.
  • The basic premise behind the Global Resource Adaptation through CoopEration (GRACE) project is to make computer systems better coordinate interactions between hardware, network, and software allowing them to rapidly optimize resource usage.
Photo of Dan Sachs with GRACE system.
Photo of Dan Sachs with GRACE system.

URBANA, Ill.—Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have found a way to reduce battery consumption in laptop computers while maintaining performance quality.  The basic premise behind the Global Resource Adaptation through CoopEration (GRACE) project is to make computer systems better coordinate interactions between hardware, network, and software allowing them to rapidly optimize resource usage. 

“Suppose you’re sitting at Starbucks having a video conference with somebody using your laptop.  Our system adjusts the speed of your processor, the amount of data compression, and other usage factors to maintain quality while using the least amount of energy possible,” says Doug Jones, an electrical and computer engineering professor and one of the project’s researchers. 

The GRACE system looks at all of the configuration choices for each component of the system and determines which will use the least energy at the best quality. 

This research is unique because “this is not just a hardware project, not just an operating systems project, but it encompasses hardware, applications, operating systems, and networks,” explains Sarita Adve, a computer science professor and the lead researcher on the project. 

A laptop computer running the GRACE system is designed to adjust gracefully to change.  “The system adapts as the environment changes.  So if you move your laptop or somebody else starts using their laptop as well and creates wireless interference, your computer will adapt and run at optimal power,” says Jones.

So far researchers have demonstrated a typical energy savings of 24% across a wide range of scenarios, which means that a three-hour battery in a laptop computer with the GRACE system would run roughly an hour longer than a non-GRACE laptop. 

Researchers say this is just the beginning for the GRACE project.  “As third generation wireless phones continue to have more and more multimedia capabilities, the usefulness of this research will grow,” predicts Jones.  “Wireless phones have even smaller batteries than laptops and with a smaller battery, the impact can be even greater.”

The GRACE Project has been underway since 2002 and involves an interdisciplinary team of scientists from the Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science departments at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Primary investigators are Adve, Jones, Robin Kravets, and Klara Nahrstedt.  Student researchers are Albert Harris, Dan Sachs, Vibhore Vardhan, Chris Hughes, Won Jeon, and Wanghong Yuan.  Primary funding for this research was provided by the National Science Foundation with additional funding from Texas Instruments.

Editor's note: media inquiries should be directed to Brad Petersen, Director of Communications, at bradp@illinois.edu or (217) 244-6376.

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