PowerTutor - An App for Greening Your Smart Phone Apps
Images via University of Michigan
As we mentioned earlier in the summer, we have green apps up the wazoo that work to help us track our carbon footprints, plant trees, shop for eco-friendly products, use public transportation more effectively....but are they doing any good? Experts seem to say yes, eventually they'll help us make a culture shift towards sustainability. But there's another hidden issue with the green apps - are they themselves very green? Another set of experts are working on an app that will help us monitor the energy use of our favorite smart phone apps and adjust our usage so that we get the most out of both our apps and each battery charge. Earthtechling points us to the PowerTutor app. It's a new smart phone app for the Android platform that shows both users and software developers how much power their applications are consuming. With so many apps in use, it's important to know just how much they're consuming so we can see what kind of impact that makes on our energy consumption since we'd have to plug our phones in the grid for recharging more often - and simply having a charge left to actually use the phone for, say, receiving calls.
"Today, we expect our phones to realize more and more functions, and we also expect their batteries to last," said Lide Zhang, a doctoral student in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and one of the application's developers. "PowerTutor will help make that possible."
So, how does it work? The app itself shows in real time how much power the app is using in four different areas - the screen, the network interface, the processor, and the GPS receiver. With these four components monitored, software developers can test out their apps and restructure their programs to consume less energy in each area, and users can compare power consumption of similar apps and choose the power sipper. You can see detailed steps for how to use the app at the PowerTutor website.
The researchers at University of Michigan have made the app capable of estimating the energy consumption of any app running on a smart phone with less than 5% error. In otherwords, PowerTutor is going to give you an accurate measurement on just about everything you've got going on your phone. And it'll also give you a power consumption history. That is...if you're an Android phone user. It's a free download at the Android Market.
Considering how many apps are used on iPhones and that battery consumption is a known issue among new iPhones, we'd love to see the PowerTutor expanded to work on these devices as well.
Greening up our apps means more than just making them focus on helping us do green things or make green choices - it also means making the apps themselves have the lowest possible impact on the environment. Even though they're digital, they still have real world impacts.
Here's an interesting video from a presentation about decreasing the environmental impacts of apps. Especially relevant to the PowerTutor is ideas discussed around the 17 minute mark about optimizing code to shave off power consumption - but the entire presentation is interesting as it discusses how our use of technology does and doesn't decrease our eco-impact.