Intel CEO Sees A Bright Future For IoT, Developers

Tiny computers, real-time depth sensing, and breakthrough memory technology are among the innovations featured at this year's Intel Developer Forum. CEO Brian Krzanich detailed how connected devices will change the way we all do business.
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At the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, CEO Brian Krzanich said there's never been a better time to be a developer.

"I've never seen such diversity of opportunity for developers," said Krzanich during his keynote at the event.

That's not exactly a novel sentiment. In 2013, the Outcast Agency held a media event based on the theme "The developer is king." The event involved representatives from companies that depend on developers, such as Github, Google, Mixpanel, New Relic, and Stripe talking about why it's a great time to be a developer. That was also the message coming out of Twilio's Signal developer conference in May. The web, mobile platforms, and the cloud have all expanded the need for developers and the scope of their work.

If the idea isn't new, it has nonetheless helped Intel expand its horizons. Krzanich recalled how past IDF events followed a formula.

"For most of IDF's history, our mission was clear," said Krzanich. "We demonstrated the march of Moore's Law, previewed the next generation of Intel products, and showed our future Intel roadmap. It was a great formula, a simple one, and one that worked for a long, long time."

Krzanich has acknowledged that Intel is having trouble doubling chip performance every two years in accordance with Moore's Law. But there's another law that protects the company: Metcalfe's Law, which posits that the value of the network is proportional to the square of the number of users.

Though Krzanich did not invoke Metcalfe's Law during his presentation at IDF, he described a world of ubiquitous computing that cannot avoid it. As more and more objects gain computing power, through the addition of sensors, processors, and transceivers, the value of connectivity (and of the people who provide it) gets amplified by network effects. One connected car in a city isn't very useful. Ten thousand or 100,000 connected cars offer new traffic management posibilities. Add traffic sensors in the roads and clothing sensors for passengers and the possibilities proliferate.

With an eye toward enabling possibilities like an army of arachnid bots that respond to gesture commands (pictured above), Krzanich made a series of announcements. He said that Intel and Microsoft have worked together to integrate Wake-on-Voice technology with Cortana, to allow Microsoft's virtual assistant to respond even when trapped within a sleeping computer. And he noted Intel has helped Google reduce audio latency in Android 5.0 Lollipop, a longstanding gripe among Android developers.

More signficantly, Intel has updated its RealSense technology, which provides depth and motion information to cameras, to make real-time 3D mapping widely available. Krzanich demonstrated an Intel RealSense Smartphone with Google's Project Tango, which will be offered to developers during Q4. He also announced RealSense support will be extended beyond Android and Windows to inclide OS X, Robot Operating System (ROS), Linux, Scratch, Unity, XSplit, OBS, Structure SDK (iOS), OSVR, and Unreal Engine 4.

In addition, Krzanich said RealSense will be integrated into a Razer USB camera for gamers, two services for Twitch streamers that enable automatic background removal (XSplit Gamecaster and OBS multiplatform), and Savioke's Relay hotel delivery robot. Expect to see depth sensing everywhere before long.

At IDF, Krzanich oversaw demonstrations of a variety of Internet of Things devices:

  • The Memomi memory mirror, which allows clothing customers to see potential purchases they've tried on in different colors;
  • The Nabi clip, which can be attached to an infant (or car seat) in order to transmit a reminder that you've left the child in the car (or any place one might park a child to run an errand...the wing of an airplane, the International Space Station, you name it); and
  • An N & W vending machine that can determine your gender and age and can sense gestures so it can be operated without being touched – ideal for airports, hospitals, and germophobes anywhere.

The advantage of devices such as the vending machine, said Krzanich, is that data gets sent to the cloud so the business owner can make improved decisions. "As you move across verticals, you can see that these end-to-end soultions provide an opportuntiy for the smart retail segment," he said. (As for the Nabi child abandonment sensor, perhaps technology isn't the optimal solution.)

IoT chipmakers Atmel and Microchip have signed on to implement Intel's Enhanced Privacy Identification (EPID) technology, which should help improve IoT security.

There was a demonstration of Intel's Optane SSD, which will ship next year with the 3D XPoint non-volatile memory announced last month by Intel and Micron. The first public hardware demo of the technology showed that it performs 5x to 7x faster than the fastest SSD on the market, said Krzanich. Intel is also planning to ship DIMM modules based on 3D XPoint next year for its data center platforms.

Fashion brand Fossil Group plans to launch a line of Android Wear devices later this year. Greg McKelvey, EVP of strategy and marketing at Fossil Group, suggested all brands, including fashion brands, are looking for ways to integrate technology. At the same time, the absence of reliable Apple Watch sales figures leaves open the question of whether there's really a significant market for such devices.

Finally, Intel introduced a new software platform to support the Intel Curie module, a button-sized processor designed for wearable applications. The Curie sports a low-power, 32-bit Intel Quark microcontroller, 384KB flash memory, 80KB SRAM, an integrated DSP sensor with pattern matching technology, Bluetooth Low Energy, a 6-axis combo sensor with accelerometer and gyroscope, and battery charging circuitry. It is expected to ship to hardware makers by the end of the year.

Krzanich suggested that Curie could be useful to collect data about athletes at sporting events, among other things.

Intel's tiny Curie chip could also help win a developer, or team of developers, $1 million. Intel is working with Mark Burnett, from United Artists Media Group, and Turner Broadcasting to create a reality TV competition called "America's Greatest Makers." The show is scheduled to premiere next year. It will pit people who have made wearable and smart connected devices using Intel Curie modules against one another for a million-dollar prize.

Here's hoping someone builds a device that can disable video cameras.