Low power or high performance? A tradeoff whose time has come (and nearly gone)

Jeonggil Ko, Kevin Klues, Christian Richter, Wanja Hofer, Branislav Kusy, Michael Bruenig, Thomas Schmid, Qiang Wang, Prabal Dutta, Andreas Terzis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

26 Citations (Scopus)


Some have argued that the dichotomy between high-performance operation and low resource utilization is false - an artifact that will soon succumb to Moore's Law and careful engineering. If such claims prove to be true, then the traditional 8/16- vs. 32-bit power-performance tradeoffs become irrelevant, at least for some low-power embedded systems. We explore the veracity of this thesis using the 32-bit ARM Cortex-M3 microprocessor and find quite substantial progress but not deliverance. The Cortex-M3, compared to 8/16-bit microcontrollers, reduces latency and energy consumption for computationally intensive tasks as well as achieves near parity on code density. However, it still incurs a ∼2x overhead in power draw for "traditional" sense-store-send-sleep applications. These results suggest that while 32-bit processors are not yet ready for applications with very tight power requirements, they are poised for adoption everywhere else. Moore's Law may yet prevail.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWireless Sensor Networks - 9th European Conference, EWSN 2012, Proceedings
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Event9th European Conference on Wireless Sensor Networks, EWSN 2012 - Trento, Italy
Duration: 2011 Feb 152011 Feb 17

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)
Volume7158 LNCS
ISSN (Print)0302-9743
ISSN (Electronic)1611-3349


Conference9th European Conference on Wireless Sensor Networks, EWSN 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Computer Science(all)


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