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Low Power Techniques – Reducing Switching

June 15, 2007

In one of the previous posts we discussed a cool technique to reduce leakage current. This time we will look at dynamic power consumption due to switching and some common techniques to reduce it.

Usually, with just a little bit of thinking, reduction of switching activity is quite possible. Let’s look at some examples.

  • Bus inversion
  • Bus inversion is an old technique which is used a lot in communication protocols between chip-sets (memories, processors, etc.), but not very often between modules within a chip. The basic idea is to add another line to the bus, which signals whether to invert the entire bus (or not). When more than half of the lines needs to be switched the bus inversion line is asserted. Here is a small example of a hypothetical transaction and the comparison of amount of transitions between the two schemes.

    bu_inversion.png

    If you studied the above example a bit, you could immediately see that I manipulated the values in such a way that a significant difference in the total amount of transitions is evident.

  • Binary Number Representation
  • The two most common binary number representation in applications are 2’s complement and signed magnitude, with the former one usually preferred. However, for some very specific applications signed digit shows advantages in switching. Imagine you have a sort of integrator, which does nothing more than summing up values each clock cycle. Imagine also that the steady state value is around 0, but fluctuations above and below are common. If you would use 2’s complement going from 0 to -1 will result in switching of the entire bit range (-1 in 2’s complement is represented by 111….). If you would use signed digit, only 2 bits will switch when going from 0 to -1.

    reduce_switching_coding.png

  • Disabling/Enabling Logic Clouds
  • When handling a heavy logic cloud (with wide adders, multipliers, etc.) it is wise to enable this logic only when needed.
    Take a look at the diagrams below. On the left implementation, only the flop at the end of the path – flop “B” has an enable signal, since flop “A” could not be gated (its outputs are used someplace else!) the entire logic cloud is toggling and wasting power. On the right (no pun intended) implementation, the enable signal was moved before the logic cloud and just for good measures, the clock for flop “B” was gated.

    reducing_switching_enable1.pngreducing_switching_enable2.png

  • High Activity Nets
  • This trick is usually completely ignored by designers. This is a shame since only power saving tools which can drive input vectors on your design and run an analysis of the active nets, might be able to resolve this.
    The idea here is to identify the nets which have high activity among other very quiet nets, and to try to push them as deep as possible in the logic cloud.

    reducing_switching_high_activity_net1.pngreducing_switching_high_activity_net2.png

    On the left, we see a logic cloud which is a function of X1..Xn,Y. X1..Xn change with very low frequency, while Y is a high activity net. On the implementation on the right, the logic cloud was duplicated, once assuming Y=0 and once for Y=1, and then selecting between the 2 options depending on the value of Y. Often, the two new logic clouds will be reduced in size since Y has a fixed value there.

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    3 comments

    1. Your blog is interesting, Nir. I look forward to coming here regularly to read your posts.

      Cheers.


    2. Always great to get comments like that…
      For questions, suggestions, ideas and naturally complaints feel free to contact me directly via email.


    3. hi Nir,

      Thanks for sharing info about low power techniques.
      I had a question about bus inversion. The bus is inverted according to the number of switchings taking place. Could you explain more (or point to a source) as to how exactly this is done. If the bus needs to be inverted, is that decision taken only after realizing how many bits toggle.? in that case transitions already take place. I am not too clear about that part.

      thanks
      renjith



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