Tasks and Strategies for Embedded Systems Designing Low-Power Systems

Many battery-powered devices depend on embedded systems in an increasingly interconnected world. There is a growing demand for energy-efficient solutions across a wide range of applications, from wearables and Internet of Things sensors to remote monitoring devices. An energy-efficient design is not merely a nice-to-have feature, but an essential feature for extending battery life, reducing maintenance, and minimizing environmental impact. In this article, we’ll explore the key techniques and strategies for designing energy-efficient embedded systems.

  1. Hardware Selection

Choosing the right hardware components is the first crucial step in designing low-power embedded systems. Here are some considerations:

  • Microcontrollers (MCUs): Selecting microcontrollers designed for low-power operation is essential. These MCUs are often equipped with power management features such as sleep modes, wake-up timers, and low-power peripherals. Popular choices include microcontrollers from the STM32L, MSP430, and nRF families.

  • Sensors: Opt for low-power sensors that can operate efficiently in sleep and active modes. Additionally, use sensors with digital interfaces when possible, as they can often be placed in low-power states more easily.

  • Power Supply: Use voltage regulators and power management ICs that have low quiescent current and are designed for battery-powered applications. Efficient energy conversion from the battery to the MCU is crucial.

  • Wireless Communication: If your embedded system requires wireless communication, select low-power communication modules and protocols. For example, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is a popular choice for short-range, low-power wireless connectivity.

  1. Power Optimization Techniques

Once you have selected the right hardware, consider implementing the following power optimization techniques:

  • Sleep Modes: Make use of the MCU’s sleep modes, which allow the processor to go into a low-power state when not actively processing data. Choose the deepest sleep mode that still allows your device to respond to events or wake-up triggers.

  • Duty Cycling: Implement duty cycling, where the device is active for a short period and then goes back to sleep. This is effective for applications that don’t require continuous operation.

  • Sensor Fusion: Combine data from multiple sensors to reduce the need for continuous sensor polling. Sensor fusion algorithms can provide accurate information with fewer sensor activations.

  • Data Compression: Compress data before transmitting it wirelessly. This reduces the time the radio module is active, saving power.

  1. Software Optimization

Software plays a significant role in low-power design:

  • Optimized Code: Write efficient code that minimizes processor activity. Avoid busy-wait loops and use interrupts and timers for event-driven processing.

  • Use Low-Power Libraries: Many microcontroller manufacturers provide low-power libraries that help manage power modes and peripherals efficiently. Utilize these libraries to simplify low-power programming.

  • Dynamic Voltage and Frequency Scaling (DVFS): Some MCUs support DVFS, allowing you to adjust the operating voltage and frequency dynamically based on the processing load. Use this feature to lower power consumption when the device is not busy.

  1. Energy Harvesting

A device’s battery can be recharged or supplemented using energy harvesting techniques in certain applications. Energy sources such as solar panels, kinetic energy harvesters, and thermoelectric generators can be used to extend battery life or provide a sustainable power source.


The design of low-power embedded systems is essential for battery-powered devices in order to extend their operating lifetimes and reduce the frequency with which batteries need to be replaced. It is possible to create efficient and environmentally friendly embedded systems by selecting the right hardware, implementing power-saving techniques, and optimizing software. Embedded systems engineers must master low-power design principles as battery-powered devices continue to become more prevalent.

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