Thursday, February 14, 2008

Novel technology doubles cell phone memory through software alone

Washington, Sept 28 (ANI): Computer engineers at Northwestern University and NEC Laboratories America, Inc. have jointly developed a technology that doubles the usable memory on cell phones and other embedded systems without any changes to hardware or applications.
Embedded systems are computers within devices not generally considered to be computers, such as cell phones, cars, iPods, medical devices and digital cameras.

The scientists made the improvement in the operating system software alone.
"All the things you do with a cell phone or personal digital assistant require memory. The technology we've developed automatically takes data and reduces it to less than half its original size without losing any information while the embedded system is running," said Robert P. Dick, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science in Northwestern's Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

"It is like putting twice as much memory in the phone without increasing it's cost or power consumption," he said.

In early 2004, NEC Labs researchers conceived the concept of integrating compression technologies into the operating system itself to provide compression as an operating system service.

Finally, the researchers were successfully able to complete the design of CRAMES (compressed RAM for embedded systems), a software-only compression infrastructure technology that has minimal performance and power consumption penalties.

The team's approach was to divide the memory in the system into two different regions, one regular and one where the data is greatly compressed.

A very simple example of data compression is converting a list of 50 individual "A"s into the phrase "50 As", which takes up less space but communicates the same information. Later on this can be converted back to an identical copy of the original text.

The software applications run along normally, but whenever an application needs data from the compressed region, the hardware pauses the software to allow the operating system to access the data, uncompress it and put it into the regular region where the application can access it.
According to the researchers, the application continues running without ever knowing the data it needed was compressed. (ANI)