Wake Me When You Need Me, Says Intel

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Intel has announced a new power-saving technology called Remote Wake that will let outfitted computers doze in a power-saving mode until an appropriate message is received over the Internet, either via a VoIP call or another messaging medium. While the Wake on LAN protocol has been around for some years, allowing computers with the right Ethernet card and software to monitor a network even while sleeping for a Sleeping Beauty like magic kiss, Remote Wake goes far beyond that.

Intel has only released sketchy details--there's not even a link on their Web site--but Remote Wake would have to maintain a persistent network connection with a central server to function as Intel intends, as most computers in homes are behind Network Address Translation (NAT) gateways that prevent direct access. It's possible that a combination of UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) and Remote Wake are required to leave an external port on the Internet-facing side of the gateway active, that can be used to route traffic to the snoozing system.

Remote Wake could be used, Intel and its partners said, to let a computer sleep unless there's a download needed, a user wanted to access files (like media to stream) from a home computer, or a call was coming in via VoIP. Remaining in a standby instead of active state could reduce usage by hundreds of watts a day for a computer that's normally left on in a full-power mode with its monitor off.

Standby modes need to be made more efficient, too. The standby modes of all home electronics, including televisions, toaster ovens with electronic displays, and wall warts for DC conversion consumers hundreds of terawatt hours per year, the output of hundreds of power plants. Standby power can't be eliminated entirely, of course, but newer equipment and smarter enginering could drop standby power use by 90 percent or more.

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