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The push to standardize portable power supply units

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September 19, 2012

If the large proliferation of all the many portable power supply device chargers and adapters that we carry along with us for cell phones, tablets, laptops and cameras makes you crazy, you might like what you're about to read. As it turns out, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has initiated its Green Standards Week (GSW) with a proposal for the world to standardize the power supply units (PSUs) provided with devices like mobile phones, tablets, laptop computers, etc.

It is estimated today that there are over 10 billion of those units in use everyday and the number is rapidly growing.

One of the standards the ITU body proposes would see the ubiquitous devices equipped with replaceable cables, because after testing more than 300 PSUs, the organization has found that the main reason for their usual failure is a weak point where the low-voltage cable is connected to the power supply.

The concept for replaceable cables may seem trivial until you consider the ITU's estimates that four billion PSUs will be summoned into existence this year alone and will collectively weigh one million tons.

The ITU predicts that PSU numbers will grow by over 12 percent a year for the foreseeable future. After testing 300 PSUs the Union also found that the main cause of failure in all power supplies is a new design standard featuring a detachable, replaceable cable on the low-voltage side of the device is therefore recommended as a way to avoid a lot of PSU purchases, saving a lot of landfill sites along the way.

But that's not all the ITU would like. Indeed, the organization has managed to crank out 105 pages on the topic of an energy-aware survey on ICT device power supplies that recommends proper standards be developed to replace the de facto standards currently in use today.

The standards the ITU wants will help reduce the materials required to build a PSU by 30 percent and, by reducing obsolescence of PSUs, it is wished it will prevent about 300,000 tons of discarded power supplies becoming e-waste each year.

The ideas the ITU thinks will help to achieve that outcome include:

  • New connectors sized by output voltages, to help users understand which PSU powers different devices.
  • More accurate labelling of PSUs' output.
  • Smaller size and lighter weights, to reduce resource use, shipping costs and improve products for users.
  • Increased power efficiency, as a response to ITU testing that reveal that many PSUs provide too much power or continue to power devices when they are switched off.
  • Standardized plugs with two prongs only.
  • Just where these ideas go from here isn't clear however, as the ITU has no power to compel manufacturers to adopt a new standard. The report politely asks manufacturers to consider the issues it raises. The organization can, however, point to some success from its past campaign for a standard mobile phone charger.

    In other high tek news

    Intel said yesterday that it's well on track to launch its next-generation Itanium processor later this year, pushing away any previous industry speculation that the CPU would reach its end of life anytime soon.

    In fact, some had expected such news from the chip giant in March of this year.

    The next-generation Itanium chip for Unix and Linux servers, code-named Poulson, will succeed the current Itanium chip code-named Tukwila, which was released three years ago after many delays.

    The CPU is used in fault-tolerant servers that typically run high-end and enterprise applications. "We're on track for the launch of Poulson later this year," said Diane Bryant, vice president and general manager of the Datacenter and Connected Systems Group at Intel, during an interview at the Intel Dev Forum being held in San Francisco yesterday.

    Intel is also developing new server chips for heavy workloads such as cloud and high-performance computing. The company has started shipping test units of its Xeon E5 and E7 servers based on the Ivy Bridge microarchitecture, and has assigned the new brand 'Atom S' to its low-power Atom server chips.

    The Xeon and Atom S chips are targeted at servers mainly based on the Windows and Linux operating systems, although Unix and Solaris are also in Intel's near-term plans as well.

    "We have the best solution for every workload that emerges from the data center," Bryant added. A big event is being planned for the launch of the Itanium chip code-named Poulson later this year, Bryant said. The company will continue to develop Itanium CPUs and is developing Poulson's followup child, code-named Kittson.

    "It continues to be a rather lucrative market. For those customers than run Unix and Solaris we want to continue to have a solution," Bryant said.

    Servers with Itanium chips are mainly offered by Hewlett-Packard as part of its high-end Integrity server line. However, there has been speculation that Intel would stop developing Itanium, which the company has denied.

    Source: The International Telecommunications Union.

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