Hewlett-Packard (HP) is testing a system that it claims reduces the cost and power consumption of Internet appliances, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and printers.

The PICO (program in, chip out) technology is said to reduce the time needed to design embedded computing-systems for smart products by automating parts of the process.

PICO takes code written in the common programming language C and automatically designs a best-fit custom EPIC (Explicitly Parallel Instruction Computing) processor for it.

Bob Rau, a senior research scientist with HP, said: “To be successful in the smart-products space, companies need to be able to design lots of highly customized computer systems, each one customized to a particular smart product for a particular application.

"You need high performance in many cases, as well as low cost, so that it can be a consumer product. The only way you can achieve that is by customizing the computer system to the particular application, so you throw away what's not needed.

"When you are designing highly customized computer systems on a wide scale you have to automate the process."