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Coding for energy efficiency

Posted: 13 Dec 2013     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:embedded software  web page  energy consumption  smartphone  tablet 

During the presentation of start-up companies by technology cluster Images & Reseaux, one project has caught my attention. It was about a so-called software eco-conception and delivering the tools for coding energy-efficient software.

A managing partner for three-year old startup Kaliterre, Thierry leboucq presented the Code Vert project (Green Code in French) as a way to extend energy-efficient coding practices beyond embedded software, to help reduce power consumption across billions of visited web pages.

Started in February 2012, the project came to light from a fairly simple observation: for consumers and equipment vendors, the power consumption of computers and Internet-connected mobile devices is often considered from a hardware point of view, as if the software running on client devices and webservers had nothing to with their final energy bill. Today, European consumers can make energy-conscious choices when buying white-goods or home appliances, among other things by reading the compulsory EU Energy label applied to those.

Since it is mostly the software developed by publishers and integrators that is responsible for excessive power consumption but also for consumer electronics hardware obsolescence (when the hardware can't run fast enough to cope with inefficient or too heavy code), why not assess its efficiency and label

it too.

Kaliterre is also an active contributor to the Green lab Center, an association of companies and research centers dedicated to exploring new green coding practices and promoting software eco-conception at a national and international level. The Green lab Center is conceived as a virtual environment with space for developers to experiment with green code and code optimization tools.

"With the Green lab Center, we want to create the first observation platform for measuring the impact of internet usage patterns on power consumption," said lebouck who is also project leader for the Green lab Center. "This could be by providing the tools to rank a website's energy efficiency versus the average of other assessed websites."

On most websites, between 10-20 percent of the energy consumed while browsing the pages is due to advertising alone, he noted. Then with a rigorous review of coding practices, between 30-40 percent of energy can be saved altogether between the server side and the client side of a website.

"In the future, we could envisage to give green-code labels to Internet service providers or content providers running efficient code on their servers, or even to app developers and individual websites," leboucq continued.

The idea behind this is also to raise internet users' awareness about their energy consumption on the net, with scores showing up directly into their browser's toolbar.

The Green lab Center could also be well positioned to collect data on the power consumption of mobile applications, helping developers code in a more environmentally friendly manner.

In a recent study on mobile apps, Purdue University and Microsoft Research have shown that on free apps, about 75 percent of the energy consumption is dedicated to advertising-related software execution (for geolocalization and user-data manipulation to serve the right adverts). Such "free" apps are not your battery's best friend.

An interesting application derived from the Green lab Center is the GREEniSCORE, aimed at smartphones and tablets running Android. GREEniSCORE is conceived as a fun application to increase the autonomy of smartphones and tablets. The app provides users with a performance score based on the actual use of their device, offering personalized advice to reduce energy consumption and increase battery life.

Using this application, leboucq has seen his smartphone's battery autonomy increase drastically from one day to three days per charge. In the long run, that also translates to a lower energy bill. Users can also share their score online at www.greeniscore.com, where the site displays additional statistics on the use and actual autonomy of smartphones (better than the manufacturer's fact sheet).

For better coding practices, Kaliterre has just come up with a new tool, Greenspector, capable of identifying "dirty" coding patterns that unnecessarily consume power, while offering equivalent coding solutions that maintain the software's quality of service, transparently.

The tool browses through thousands of lines of code to highlight consuming objects and report green code violations, it allows programmers to view key metrics of their software before offering alternatives. To do so, Greenspector digs into a robust repository of 250 green rules whose impact on power consumption has been measured and validated in several programming languages.

The tool can inspect Java, Java Android, CSS, HTML, JavaScript and PhP code. Developers can then score various programming solutions and correct the code on the fly.

Kaliterre also sees a business opportunity in offering consultancy services or offering access to a cloud-based tool for developers to use as SaaS, uploading their source code for inspection and optimization.

- Julien Happich
  EE Times Europe





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