New Processors Bring Internet to Household Devices

Dennis Faas's picture

A major microprocessor company has designed a new chip that requires far less energy to work than more conventional chip designs. The breakthrough could allow millions of non-computing devices to benefit from an Internet connection.

The new design comes from British-based firm ARM Holdings, which builds the processors used in most smartphones.

While PC chips generally require so much power from batteries that they are limited to only a few hours of portable operation, the new ARMchip allows smartphones to run for several days without recharging.

Cheap and Tiny 'Flycatcher' Chip Uses One-Third Less Power

The new chip, called Flycatcher, is just one millimeter square in size, and draws about one-third less power than conventional processor chips. Eventually, says ARM, the new chips could be produced for as little as 25 to 30 cents each.

The Flycatcher chip is designed to use intelligent power management, so that when the device in which it is operating isn't actively in use, there's virtually no power drain. (Source:

The result is that the Flycatcher chip can potentially operate 'unplugged' for several years without needing its battery to be replaced or recharged.

With its small size and low price, it might be both financially and physically possible to combine Flycatcher with WiFi Bluetooth chips as tiny systems built into all manner of household devices. (Source:

Smart Grids Could Become Even Smarter

One possible use for Flycatcher systems may be in household and industrial power management systems.

For example, the new chip could make non-vital machinery (such as dishwashers or laundry machines at home, peripheral lighting or ventilating systems in factories) smart enough to shut down for a while whenever electrical demand peaks.

The new chip could also be built into radios, allowing them to find and play online radio stations as easily as over-the-air broadcasts.

Another suggestion is to consider using the chips in personal medical devices, such as heart rate monitors.

With this technology on watch, patients could live a normal life at home, but have clinics alerted the instant they become unwell. In the past, such monitoring devices have often been impractical because of short battery life.

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