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EDITOR'S REPORT

Intel Developers Forum

Intel Conference Points to the Expansion of the IoT into Everyday Life

New technologies are enabling new ideas for expanding pervasive computing power into all walks of life—work, health, recreation and social interaction. The Internet of Things appears poised to embrace most of our daily activities.

BY TOM WILLIAMS, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

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The recent Intel Developers Forum (IDF) held in San Francisco has shed light on Intel’s direction for the coming year as well as some new technology developments. As embedded computing inexorably spreads out of the industrial/military realm and into the world of everyday consumers, huge opportunities are opening up along with the need to adapt the technology to the conditions of a mobile, wearable world in which the users may have no idea of the underlying technology but expect it to function flawlessly and intuitively to meet their needs and expectations.

To that end, Intel has announced a number of technology advances as well as directions for development based on those technologies. One thing that has come to be expected at each IDF is the next iteration of Intel’s foundation Core processor technology in its yearly “tick” (advance in process technology) “tock” (advance in microarchitecture) model. This is the year for the “tock,” which while not quite ready, heralds advances in a Core-based multicore SoC code named “Skylake,” which will bring enhanced instructions, more integrated IP including advanced on-chip graphics and perhaps most urgent, lower power consumption now that Intel is in a cosmic struggle with ARM on all levels including the 64-bit server market. But that’s another topic. N

Making Systems Intuitively Interactive

One area directly aimed at consumers but with major implications elsewhere is Intel’s RealSense technology. In collaboration with Google, Intel is driving innovation in mobile depth sensing by implementing Intel RealSense technologies into an Android Smartphone developer kit that was demonstrated at IDF. The Intel RealSense Smartphone featuring Google’s Project Tango enables new experiences including indoor navigation and area learning, virtual reality gaming, 3D scanning and more. Intel RealSense developer kits supporting Project Tango are targeted to reach select Android developers by the end of this year.

One key to the RealSense effort is the use of 3D cameras that use depth-sensing technology and a camera interface that can give developers access to a camera’s raw depth data. This enables a number of application areas such as gesture and face/facial expression recognition. Users will soon be able to scan 3D objects and from the scans create 3D models within the computer. A major application area will be robot vision. One application demonstrated was a Robot Butler built by Savioke now being used by some hotel chains to deliver items like room service requests, etc., to rooms. The butler can autonomously navigate the path, avoiding objects and persons along the way. And you don’t have to tip it. Of course, gaming will also be a big market for RealSense, which is already available on some new PCs, and development kits are available as well.

Another result that is under development in the RealSense arena is a pseudo-holographic display that projects a 3D image in proximity to the terminal. The display will be manipulated by touch and provide what is called haptic feedback. This is the generation of tactile sensation, vibrations, that can give the user a more real sense of interaction with the disiplay. It, of course, also reacts to the presence and movement of a hand or finger interacting with the 3D display.

Pushing for Security

Intel’s Enhanced Privacy ID technology has been deployed for something like five years. But Intel is now announcing major partnerships with both Atmel and Microchip Technology incorporating it into their own products. The EPID technology delivers a hardware root of trust. With Intel EPID, devices can be identified and a secure communication can be linked between these devices. Additionally, the group membership can be determined without revealing the identity of the specific platform allowing for another level of security. Intel EPID can dynamically assign and revoke group memberships by individuals. Even more, this technology meets the latest protected key delivery requirements for content and data protection protocols.

One interesting demonstration showed a user accessing a device. The user was wearing a bracelet with an RF link to the device and a specific code in the bracelet. When the user entered the correct password, it was matched with the worn ID code and access was granted. If the user went out of range of the device or disconnected or removed the bracelet, it would require the reentry of the password to match the code. The assumption here is that only that user knows the password that goes with his/her ID. Other scenarios are of course possible.

Memory Breakthrough

With CPU speeds now far outpacing what most RAMs are capable of, a new announcement by Intel and Micron Technology introduced a new class of nonvolatile memory that is 1,000 times faster than NAND flash and 10 times denser than conventional memory. An individual die can store up to 128 Gbits of data. Called 3D Xpoint, the new technology is the result of more than a decade of research and development. 3D XPoint was built from the ground up to address the need for non-volatile, high-performance, high-endurance and high-capacity storage and memory at an affordable cost. It ushers in a new class of non-volatile memory that significantly reduces latencies, allowing much more data to be stored close to the processor and accessed at speeds previously impossible for non-volatile storage.

 The new, transistor-less cross point architecture creates a three-dimensional checkerboard where memory cells sit at the intersection of word lines and bit lines, allowing the cells to be addressed individually (Figure 2). As a result, data can be written and read in small sizes, leading to faster and more efficient read/write processes.

Figure 2
3D XPoint memory is a new nonvolatile memory with a 3D transistorless architecture that has the potential to fulfill the roles of both Flash, SSD and system memory.

Intel also introduced its new Optane technology, which is based on the 3D XPoint non-volatile memory media and combined with the company’s advanced system memory controller, interface hardware and software IP, to unleash vast performance potential in a range of forthcoming products. Intel Optane technology will first come to market in a new line of high-endurance, high-performance Intel SSDs beginning in 2016. The new class of memory technology will also power a new line of Intel DIMMs designed for Intel’s next-generation data center platforms. It could logically be expected that such a breakthrough will lead to a wide variety of implementation, many of which could vastly increase the power and performance of small devices.

The World of the Wearable

As the IoT permeates our lives, the push for ever smaller, unobtrusive and wearable systems is accelerating. Intel’s response is the Curie SoC that was first announced in January and is now sampling with shipping expected later in 2015. The Curie is based on Intel’s 32-bit low-power Quark microcontroller. It incorporates Bluetooth low energy, a low-power integrated DSP sensor hub and pattern matching technology along with a 6-axis combo sensor with accelerator and gyroscope. These elements combine to make up a pattern classification engine that allows it to identify different motions and activities quickly and accurately. In addition it has on-chip 384 kBytes of flash and 80 kBytes of SRAM plus battery charging circuitry. The module is packaged into a very small button-sized form factor and runs a new software platform created specifically for Intel Curie module.

Intel also announced plans to create multiple reference designs based on the module that will be available through select ODMs. As example, Intel demonstrated the first reference design for enterprise wearables, which features enterprise grade security and consumer grade usability. The device allows the wearer to authenticate once on a phone or a PC and carry that authentication with them, enabling automatic login when in close proximity.

Intel also announced a new end-to-end software platform created specifically for the Curie. The platform includes all of the hardware, firmware, software, SDK and services needed for a variety of use cases. The software platform supports iOS and Android devices and allows manufacturers to create their own unique and differentiated products.

Newly announced at IDF are two new Intel IQ Software Kits—Intel Identity IQ and Intel Time IQ, which will be released by the end of 2015. The kits include Identity IQ, which establishes the identity of the user of the wearable device and enables personalized and secure experiences with services that require personal authentication. TheTime IQ aims to improve the efficiency of wearable users’ daily routines and accomplish tasks with contextually-aware notifications.

ABody IQ enables capabilities related to physical activities, including counting steps and calculating calories burned as well as providing data visualizations to help achieve goals. And finally, a Social IQ supports social interactions, including communication via phone, social networks and SMS with peers and brands.

This year’s Intel Development Forum brought together Intel’s new technologies and exposed them to a growing number of developers and OEMs that are increasingly devising applications that affect users’ daily lives. The emphasis on usability and the awareness of the spread of the IoT into not only industry, but also medicine, health, design, and social interaction was quite apparent and can be expected to result in some very compelling products and applications in the near future.

Intel
Santa Clara, CA
(408) 765-8080
www.intel.com

Atmel
San Jose, CA
(408) 441-0311
www.atmel.com

Microchip Technology
Chandler, AZ
(480) 792-7200
www.microchip.com

Micron Technology
Longmont, CO
(720) 494-5000
www.micron.com

Savioke
Santa Clara, CA
www.savioke.com