A software controlled voltage tuning system using multi-purpose ring oscillators

Steve Kerrison, Kerstin Eder

Research output: Working paper

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This paper presents a novel software driven voltage tuning method that utilises multi-purpose Ring Oscillators (ROs) to provide process variation and environment sensitive energy reductions. The proposed technique enables voltage tuning based on the observed frequency of the ROs, taken as a representation of the device speed and used to estimate a safe minimum operating voltage at a given core frequency. A conservative linear relationship between RO frequency and silicon speed is used to approximate the critical path of the processor. Using a multi-purpose RO not specifically implemented for critical path characterisation is a unique approach to voltage tuning. The parameters governing the relationship between RO and silicon speed are obtained through the testing of a sample of processors from different wafer regions. These parameters can then be used on all devices of that model. The tuning method and software control framework is demonstrated on a sample of XMOS XS1-U8A-64 embedded microprocessors, yielding a dynamic power saving of up to 25% with no performance reduction and no negative impact on the real-time constraints of the embedded software running on the processor.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 19 Mar 2015


  • energy efficient computing
  • software voltage tuning
  • software energy consumption


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