Microsoft, UC San Diego want your PCs to talk in their sleep

Microsoft and University of California, San Diego researchers have developed a device they say can save on energy costs by enabling end users to put their computers into a "sleep talking" mode that falls somewhere in between awake and sleep modes. They say it could save 60% to 80% on energy usage.

"Large numbers of people keep their PCs in awake mode even though the PCs are relatively idle for long blocks of time because they want to stay connected to an internal network or the Internet or both," said UCSD computer science Ph.D. student Yuvraj Agarwal in a statement. "I realized that most of the tasks that people keep their computers on for—like ensuring remote access and availability for virus scans and backup, maintaining presence on instant messaging networks, being available for incoming voice-over-IP calls, and file sharing and downloading—can be achieved at much lower power-use levels than regular awake mode."

Agarwal and his collaborators have built a USB device, dubbed Somniloquy, that features a low-power processor that works at the PC's network interface level on wired and wireless networks. It boasts an embedded operating system and flash memory, and disguises itself as a sleeping PC to other systems on a network. But it can also wake up the actual PC in times of need, such as if a large file is coming in.

The Somniloquy technology could eventually be built right into network processors, the researchers say.

For more details on the UCSD and Microsoft Research technology, check out the paper presented by researchers at the recent USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Deisgn and Implementation.

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