EEMBC to develop Ultra-Low Power microcontroller benchmarks

January 30, 2013 // By Nick Flaherty
The Embedded Microprocessor Benchmark Consortium (EEMBC) has set up a working group to develop a standardized, industry-endorsed method to evaluate the energy efficiency of ultra-low power (ULP) microcontrollers.

To date, the industry has lacked a common method to test, validate, and compare the real-world energy consumption of these microcontrollers that target applications such as portable medical devices, security systems, building automation, smart metering, and also applications using energy harvesting devices.
The new benchmark will initially look at the power used when a controller moves from running to its real time clock sleep mode. New benchmarking code will be required as the standard CoreMark benchmarks use too much power, says Horst Diewald, chief architect of MSP430 microcontrollers at Texas Instruments (TI) in Germany who is chair of the EEMBC ULP working group.
“We have seen a significant need for a well-constructed, industry-accepted benchmark to equitably evaluate the energy efficiency of microcontrollers,” said Diewald. “Unfortunately, the application developer cannot rely on datasheet parameters alone to compare total microcontroller power consumption and select an appropriate microcontroller.”
The first benchmark should be available by the end of March to assess different controllers. Members of the group include Analog Devices, ARM, Atmel, Cypress, Energy Micro, Freescale, Fujitsu, Microchip, Renesas, Silicon Labs, STMicro and TI, although some notable energy harvesting device developers are missing.
Unlike other EEMBC benchmarks that endeavor to measure the top performance of processors and systems, the ULP benchmark will focus on measuring the energy consumed by microcontrollers running various computational workloads over an extended time period. The benchmarking methodology will allow the microcontrollers to enter into their idle or sleep modes during the majority of time when they are not executing code, thereby simulating a real-world environment where products must support battery life measured in months, years, and even decades.
“EEMBC’s primary goal is to develop fair and unbiased benchmarks for the embedded industry. In support of this goal, I am very excited that the EEMBC members are so motivated to develop this much-needed ULP benchmark,” said EEMBC president Markus Levy. “In the system developer’s interest, we encourage all relevant