Federal Govt. Spends $500,000 to Make Apps More Energy Efficient

July 2, 2013 - 2:29 PM

Cell Phone Threat

This June 19, 2012 file photo shows Samsung’s new Galaxy S III phone, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

(CNSNews.com) – The federal government hopes spending half-million dollars researching ways to develop more energy efficient software for mobile applications – instead of a longer lasting battery – could eventually produce more energy efficient software for much larger programs.

The National Science Foundation announced last week that it was providing a $499,953 to the University of Southern California on research to help software developers improve energy consumption of smartphone applications. The project funding lasts through June 30, 2016.

“The capabilities of mobile devices have increased dramatically and end-users are able to perform a wide range of useful tasks on their smartphones,” the NSF project description stated.

“However, the usability of these devices is strongly influenced by their energy consumption. Despite advances in hardware and battery design, a poorly coded application can drain a smartphone's battery with numerous energy-expensive operations.”

“Developers lack the tools and techniques to identify when and where the energy consumption profiles of their applications can be improved,” the project description continued. “This research aims to help developers understand how energy is consumed within their applications, and to help them change their applications in ways that will lead to reduced energy consumption.”

NSF spokeswoman Lisa-Joy Zgorski said the agency funded the project in large part because of the growing importance of apps.

“Why did we fund this? Everyone wants the latest and greatest applications on their smart phones that do very cool things—from GPS navigation to quick and efficient database searching (and many things in between),” Zgorski told CNSNews.com in a written statement. “These applications are increasingly power hungry on a mobile device.”

The NSF hopes to promote high energy software over more powerful batteries, she said.

“There are two approaches to mitigating this problem: first to make longer-lasting batteries,” Zgorski continued. “Second (an approach that NSF has favored with this award) to examine the software and determine how the application architecture, software design and the source code work together to consume energy.”

“Software developers need to understand how energy is consumed by their apps so that they may design software systems that maximize efficiency,” Zgorski said. “That is what this project hopes to do.

“If successful, our investment in the basic research in software engineering techniques could have widespread implications for less energy consumption/more efficient software design for not only applications on smart phones now, and in the future, on larger and perhaps more sophisticated, software-reliant systems,” she said.

The project description talked about the “widespread use of mobile applications and the prevalence of energy consumption-related problems.” It said that “this work will impact both end users and developers by improving applications energy efficiency and enabling further research in this area.”

“The results of this research will also have marked educational impact through the training of future software engineers in predicting, estimating, measuring, and managing the effects of their system designs and implementations on energy consumption,” the NSF project description said.

The principle investigator William Halfond, an assistant professor of political science at USC, could not be reached for comment at press time.