Over the years, modern computers and gadgets have required less energy inputs as they have been designed to conserve energy and be more efficient. Now computing firm Intel has announced at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) that due to the shrinking energy cost of computing, they believe that the energy required for “meaningful computing” will approach zero and become ubiquitous by the year 2020.
Assuming that “meaningful computing” means everyday gadgets such as smartphones, laptops and tablets, this could be a major development that could have far-reaching effects. The question is, how will it be achieved? Currently, the cost of computing already accounts for less than half the total energy expenditure of many hand-held devices, but more modern gadgets that come with add-ons such as a Retina displays, have significantly increased device power consumption.
Speaking at the IDF, Intel acknowledged these challenges and cited a separate whitepaper on the growth of More-than-Moore scaling — the relationship between radio power consumption, available bandwidth, and signal strength. And while the use of more efficient systems may reduce the power consumption of these components, it is doubtful that it will hit zero.
Tech blog Extreme Tech was quite dismissive of the claim saying: “Intel’s decision to present on the zero cost future of computing is disappointing because it flies in the face of everything the company has said in the past year and ignores the previously-acknowledged difficulty of scaling all the various components that go into a modern smartphone. The idea that 2020 will bring magical improvements or suddenly sweep neural interfaces to the forefront of technology is, in a word, folly.”
Only time will tell if Intel can build small computer engines with a near-zero cost of calculation by 2020, but with the efficiency of technology increasing each year, I wouldn’t bet against them.