Do We Need a Definition of Power Management?

September 2, 2013

Last month we invited you to participate in a poll about power management and power conversion. Several readers participated, and the results were very interesting. Everyone who responded was involved in power conversion, but half also have to design hardware for parts of your application other than the power system.

The most interesting results were around power conversion and power management. It seems that there is a pretty clear understanding of what is meant by ‘power conversion’: it involves the generation of the required voltages and currents for the system. Perhaps the best definition was “Providing all required supply voltages & currents from one or more input power sources.”

‘Power management’, however, was very different. There was little consistency between the definitions of power management from the survey respondents. Definitions included:

  • Sequencing power supplies
  • Preventing problems from inrush currents
  • Managing start-up loads
  • Firmware and software to manage the power consumption
  • Reconfiguring the power system for maximum efficiency
  • Power system supervision
  • Power system control

It’s clear that there is no consensus on the meaning of power management, but does this matter? Of course it matters to a company such as Vicor: we can’t use the term power management and assume that everyone will think of the same things.

For the engineering world, however, perhaps the truth is that power management is an incredibly broad term. It encompasses everything within a power supply system that is not directly transforming the voltages, currents and frequencies (i.e. everything that is not power conversion).

As engineers will naturally focus on the elements of power management that are most closely related to their work, it’s a term that won’t be interpreted consistently, but it’s still a very useful way of describing the many different things that a power system developer has to consider in addition to generating the volts and amps that a system needs.

We will be interested to hear what you think.

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