Intermittent computing research featured in Nature Physics

Intermittent computing research featured in Nature Physics

Arm-ECS research into energy-driven and intermittently powered computing systems has been featured in a Nature Physics article by Mark Buchanan discussing on biologically inspired computing. In particular, it focuses on our recent article on Energy Driven Computing in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, led by Arm-ECS researcher Sivert Sliper.

This trend faces some serious obstacles linked to the unavoidable need for energy. The number of connected devices is projected to be over 20 billion in the next year or two, and 70 billion by 2025. Until now, our computing devices have remained within the scope of our oversight and maintenance. Rechargeable batteries can be recharged, and replaced when necessary. That will increasingly become not only uneconomical, but practically impossible due to their sheer number. As an alternative, engineers will shift to the pursuit of devices able to harvest their own energy, although it will require a profound shift in computing strategy. In particular, future computing could shift to emphasizing energy over performance, only providing the maximum quality of service over certain intervals. As recently described by Sivert Sliper and colleagues (, engineers see three progressive steps in moving toward this vision.

Sliper Sivert T., Cetinkaya Oktay, Weddell Alex S., Al-Hashimi Bashir and Merrett Geoff V. 2020Energy-driven computingPhil. Trans. R. Soc. A.37820190158.

The article draws some interesting parallels between our energy-driven research and biologically inspired computing, adapting their activity based on their own resources and environmental conditions.

This vision of computing moves in the direction of biology, where some organisms can go dormant in the right conditions. Viruses routinely do this, inserting their DNA into a host’s genome until restored to activity later when their replication is more viable. Similarly, seeds or spores can remain dormant in the environment for years, protected and using no energy, before being reactivated.

For more information, read the full article in Nature Physics.