Every engineer knows Moore’s law, which states that “the density of integrated circuits will double approximately every two years.”
And most engineers are familiar with Scrooge’s law: “Power consumption for LCDs will decrease by 50% every two years.”
Ok, maybe most engineers don’t know Scrooge’s law of LCDs. In fact I doubt if any engineer has heard of Scrooge’s law, since I made it up the other day at the airport while looking for an outlet to charge my cell phone.
But, even though it’s just been invented, Scrooge's law of LCDs may just be as important at Moore's law when it comes to measuring progress.
Smart Phones: The SUV of the Electronics Industry
Why is Scrooge’s law so important? Well, the number of handheld/battery powered designs that require LCDs is increasing, and unlikely to stop anytime soon. Great for our business, but not so great when it comes to power consumption. Particularly for our beloved smartphones.
As great as smartphones are - and the bigger the screen, the nicer they are for reading emails and watching Doctor Who - they suck power. they are the SUVs of the portable handheld/electronics industry. We can’t live without them, but their power consumption is devastating (well, maybe not devastating, but that seemed like such a good word that I wanted to fit it into this article somewhere).
My old slider phone couldn’t play movies or check Outlook, but I could make calls and text on it for three to four days before needing to plug it in. Phones with large color displays require charging at least once a day - maybe more if you’re roaming.
I now carry a portable USB charger, which keeps my phone alive, but it’s one more thing to carry, and one more thing to run through security.
Scrooge’s Law: LCD Manufacturers’ New Goal
LCD manufacturers have made great strides in the advancement of LCD technology. (Note: I use the word LCDs to cover all display technologies, including OLEDs, TFTs and VATNs. Mostly because LCDs is a word I can actually spelll.)
Every year, LCD manufacturers release displays with sharper contrast, brighter color and wider viewing angles.
We’re all drawn to these large, bright, multi-color displays, but it’s up to us poor, lonely, underappreciated engineers to make those shiny products run as long as possible on two AA batteries.
It’s time for the industry to adopt a new challenge and make reducing power consumption one of its key goals. It’s better for our industry, our customers, and ultimately the environment.
I challenge them to adopt Scrooge’s law for LCDs.
Staying Alive: Some Batteries are More Important than Others
If the LCD industry would embrace Scrooge’s law by reducing power consumption with each new generation display, it’s not only smartphones that would benefit.
In industries like medical, industrial, HVAC, and controls and sensors, portability is key. And it’s critical that these portable, battery-powered products provide the longest life possible while users are away from an outlet - particularly (and somewhat literally) for the medical customers we supply.
Can It Be Done?
Perhaps reducing power consumption by 50% every two years is unrealistic - but what about 5% every two years? That’s a goal within our reach, and even 5% will allow the average product to operate an additional 10 to 20 minutes.
No one wants to be tethered to an outlet, so the sooner we make Scrooge’s law for LCDs a reality, the better.
After all, an extra 10 minutes is just enough to time to finish that Doctor Who episode - or let me spell-check this thing before my battery di….
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