DARPA Seeks Researchers for PERFECT Program

Power Dynamic for Continuation of Moore's Law

DARPA’s PERFECT program aims to enhance power efficiency in embedded computer systems, delivering increased computing capability per watt of electrical power. Credit: DARPA

DARPA is looking to further increase processing speed in their intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems and has set up a Proposers’ Day workshop to further awareness and to attract potential researchers. The power efficiency revolution for embedded computing technologies (PERFECT) program seeks to improve computational capability by improving power efficiency for embedded computer systems and providing more computing per watt of electrical power.

Computational capability is an enabler for nearly every military system. But computational capability is increasingly limited by power requirements and the constraints on the ability to dissipate heat. One particular military computational need is found in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems where sensors collect more information than can be processed in real-time. To continue to increase processing speed, new methods for controlling power constraints are required.

In the past, computing systems could rely on increasing computing performance with each processor generation. Following Moore’s Law, each generation brought with it double the number of transistors. And according to Dennard’s Scaling, clock speed could increase 40 percent each generation without increasing power density. This allowed increased performance without the penalty of increased power.

“That expected increase in processing performance is at an end,” said DARPA Director Regina E. Dugan. “Clock speeds are being limited by power constraints. Power efficiency has become the Achilles Heel of increased computational capability.”

DARPA’s Power Efficiency Revolution for Embedded Computing Technologies (PERFECT) program seeks to improve power efficiency for embedded computer systems, providing more computing per watt of electrical power. To increase awareness of this program and attract potential researchers, DARPA has scheduled a Proposers’ Day workshop on February 15 in Arlington, Va. Proposers’ Day details are available through the Special Notice.

As transistor operating voltages approach logic threshold voltage, device operating characteristics change dramatically, decreasing both reliability and maximum operating frequency. Since reliability and operating frequency are critical to its user base, commercial industry has only limited ability to reduce operating voltage to avoid these clock frequency decreases. PERFECT seeks revolutionary approaches to processing-power efficiency to overcome these limitations. This approach includes near threshold voltage operation and massive heterogeneous processing concurrency, combined with techniques to effectively use the resulting concurrency and tolerate the resulting increased rate of soft errors.

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