PORTLAND, Ore.—Intel Corp. is aiming to exploit "smart sensing opportunities in embedded markets" according to Vida Ilderem, vice president of Intel Labs, who gave the closing keynote at the MEMS Executive Congress in Scottsdale, Ariz., last week.
Ilderem was hired away from Motorola's Applied Research and Technology Center last year where she was vice presidentof Systems and Technology Research, responsible for developing Motorola's current communication and interaction technologies, including the visual, computational and RF system-on-chip technologies. At Intel she is directing the efforts of 200 engineers toward RF, wireless SoC and associated physical technologies at Intel's Integrated Platform Research lab. Ilderem reports directly to Intel's chief technology officer, Justin Rattner.
"MEMS and other sensing technologies are becoming increasingly important to consumer markets," said Ilderem. "Intelligent sensing and context-aware services are presenting huge opportunities in embedded markets with billions of wirelessly connected devices."
Intel has not traditionally been major supplier of embedded chips, but is now gearing up to move its processor expertise into embedded markets, prompting it to hire Ilderem to pioneer new capabilities and strategic directions for success in embedded markets.
According to Ilderem, dramatic increases in Internet traffic and online data storage over the next five years can be directly traced to consumer participation using devices powered by embedded processors, such as smartphones, accounting for as much as 70 percent of Internet traffic.
Intel's challenge is to translate the massive amount of raw data streaming in from handset sensors, such as proximity, accelerometers, gyros and GPS, and translate it into context awareness of the user which can be fed to location-based and other smart services, from push advertising targeted at specific users to proactive wellness and preventative intelligence such as predicting life-threatening falls for the elderly before they happen.
Low-cost, smart power management and other traditional challenges must dovetail with new challenges aimed at deducing from sensor data where the user is and what they are doing in a secure manner and without violating their privacy. Sensor fusion, required for making intelligent inferences from multiple sensors, is the secret sauce, which will be facilitated by the integration of multiple sensors onto SoCs, according to Ilderem.
I think integrating MEMS is challenging but yet very interesting. Surely smart software engineers can think of many interesting applications if the MEMS sensors are really good. But why can't it be produced with MEMS-only chips and a standard protocol interfacing CPU/MCU? I think this is easier and some MEMS companies may be smarter to things right.
I agree with prabhakar_deosthali, by integrating the sensors to a software interface, Intel will be providing a platform that will allow system designers and OEMs to start solving problems with the sensors, rather than figuring out how to get them working. As these sensor become more and more prevalent, the novel usages are going amaze us.
The mere fact that Intel hired Vida Ilderem away from Motorola demonstrates that they are serious about SoC. She emphasized to me the need to integrate multiple sensors together too. I don't want to read too much into it, but perhaps Intel will be getting into the sensor market too--at least for their own SoCs.
It is good to see that the Embedded chip suppliers are now moving from the raw micro controllers from providing just some rudimentary analog and digital I/O and some rudimentary serial interfaces to such smart SOCs having ready made interfaces and data capture capabilities from MEMS sensors. If these SOCs come bundled with smart BIOS which provides ready-made callable software interfaces to the applications then the creative programmers can concentrate on developing innovative applications , rather than putting their efforts into sensor interfacing, data capture and filtering techniques. If INTEL is doing something in smart Embedded SOC then definitely it will be a smart solution!
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.