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Tomas Nordström

Professor of Computer Engineering at the School of Information Technology. Appointed in October 2012.

"Future computers must be energy-smart"

Tomas Nordström has chosen a career that has included both work in business and a longer period of time abroad. He has worked for Telia Research to develop and standardise VDSL (Very-high-speed Digital Subscriber Line) which is currently used to provide broadband to homes across the whole world

Before Tomas Nordström came to Halmstad University, he was working at the Telecommunications Research Center Vienna (FTW), Austria, where he worked to develop and analyse energy-efficient solutions for broadband communications, together with Austrian and international companies.

Energy-efficient computers in focus

Tomas Nordström's research involves creating energy-efficient embedded systems that we will eventually find in devices such as: future smartphones or computers for radar and computer vision in vehicles or aircraft.

– I'm working to develop computers so they can do their calculations with minimum energy consumption. Computers are everywhere today. Many things – such as mobile phones – now include several computers, something we do not reflect upon, as you only see the screen. However, to effectively use all of these processors is not easy and this is what makes this area so interesting.

One area of application for Tomas Nordström's research could be to make phones as energy efficient as possible in order to make the battery last a lot longer than it does today.

The fact that Tomas Nordström's focus is energy is by no means an accident, but the result of conscious choices.

– It started when I sat down and thought about what were the world's major problems and concluded that it was about three words all beginning with the letter e – environment, energy and economy. The area where I felt I could make a difference was in the energy area.

Wants to reduce global energy consumption

It is estimated that the world's Information and Communications Technology (ICT) account for two percent of all energy consumption. Even though ICT can save a significant amount of energy within other areas, such as transport, it is very important to address the energy consumption in the ICT field itself. Therefore, Tomas Nordström hopes his research will be able to find efficient ways to reduce it.

– We are studying how the hundreds of processors that can fit on a chip today should be designed and what specialisation they require. This means that we create heterogeneous computer systems, where each processor is unique. Another way to save energy on a chip is to switch off parts of the chip that are not in use, something that we call "dark silicon" or just heterogeneous systems. However, once they are active, they are specialised for certain tasks: making the computer as energy efficient as possible.

Another important issue for Tomas Nordström is how these heterogeneous computing architectures that we create shall be programmed efficiently.

A new postgraduate student per year

Tomas Nordström collaborates, among others, with Saab in the development of radar application to make this as energy efficient as possible. In the near future, he hopes to establish a complete working-team to his research projects. In 2013, he had the services of a postgraduate student and it is hoped that there will be more in the future.

– My ambition is to recruit a new postgraduate student to the group each year and hopefully eventually becoming internationally recognised as the research group that has helped create energy-smart, heterogeneous parallel computers.

According to Tomas Nordström, it was never clear that he would have an academic career, but curiosity was, and has always been, his driving force; therefore, it is this that has inspired him to become a professor.

– As a professor, I have great possibilities to influence the research conducted as well as pointing it in the direction that will allow us to create new knowledge in many key areas. It feels both important and exciting.

Text: HANNA JOHANSSON

Photo: IDA LÖVSTÅL

Tomas Nordström was born in 1963 in Härnösand. He has a Master of Science degree in Computer Engineering from Luleå University. He completed his PhD with his thesis, "Highly Parallel Computers for Artificial Neural Networks", at the same university in 1995.

During the years 1999–2013, he worked at the Telecommunications Research Center Vienna (FTW), in Austria.

In 2009, Tomas Nordström accepted the position as lecturer at Halmstad University. Initially, he shared his duties between Halmstad and Vienna, but has worked full time in Halmstad since the autumn of 2012, when he was appointed professor. He is mainly active at EIS – Halmstad Embedded and Intelligent Systems Research – the University's research on embedded and intelligent systems.

Tomas Nordström is a member of the University's Research and Education Board.

Updated 2017-08-16