Various forces, including political, economic and social, are driving the need to tightly couple embedded devices and sensors with established applications, such as healthcare, production planning and social networking. The result is the Embedded Internet, which will create new opportunities and technical challenges, many of which are addressed by Intel® silicon products and platform technologies.
Over a decade ago, the late Mark Weiser, chief technical officer of Xerox PARC, described the future vision of ubiquitous computing that is transforming our lives: "we are trying to conceive a new way of thinking about computers in the world, one that takes into account the natural human environment and allows the computers themselves to vanish into the background."1
As Weiser observed, the most profound technologies are those that seem to disappear as they weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life.
Before arriving where it is today, the Internet evolved from the first generation of connected mainframe computers to the second generation, characterized by e-commerce and email on PCs and servers, and on to the third generation, typified by social connectivity applications and the vast expansion of mobile devices.
We are now on the threshold of a fourth phase in the evolution of the Internet. Intel calls this the Embedded Internet, a network space where billions of intelligent embedded devices will connect with larger computing systems, and to each other, without human intervention. In support of this concept, John Gantz of IDC forecasts 15 billion devices will be communicating over the network by the year 2015, as illustrated in Figure 1.
Figure 1 Devices Communicating Over a Network Worldwide
The Embedded Internet will involve a massive build-out of connected devices and sensors woven into the fabric of our lives and businesses. Devices deeply embedded in public and private places will recognize us and adapt to our requirements for comfort, safety, streamlined commerce, entertainment, education, resource conservation, operational efficiency and personal well-being.
There will be adaptive and 'smart' environments, from office buildings to retail stores, that will enable innovative usage models and vastly enhanced user experiences. As a result, embedded devices will require much more capability, prompting device manufacturers to transition away from proprietary, vertically integrated embedded systems to new generations of standards-based, multifunction systems.
The Embedded Internet will create many opportunities for developers of new products, solutions and services. Supplying many of the necessary building blocks, Intel provides the consistent platform architecture, scalable performance and support for networking standards that will help developers quickly respond to these opportunities.
Four Underlying Driving Forces
Many far-reaching forces are driving the need to develop an Embedded Internet, some of which can be loosely categorized as political, economic, social and technological, as described in Figure 2 and in the following:
- Political Drivers: Legislative initiatives and regulatory incentives will require up-to-date data from embedded devices pertaining to public safety, regulatory compliance, healthcare and efficient service delivery.
- Economic Drivers: Organizations seeking greater process throughput, lower operating-costs and simpler asset monitoring will increase business process and manufacturing efficiency through embedded machine-to-machine communication.
- Social Drivers: Consumers will demand that the majority of their electronic devices (e.g., cell phones, vehicles and entertainment) ubiquitously connect to the Internet, work seamlessly and support advanced features, like voice control, which will allow people to interact with embedded machines in their immediate environment.
- Technological Drivers: Pervasive connectivity, enabled by inexpensive broadband technology and GPS, will allow embedded device manufacturers and service providers to deliver innovative new services and generate new streams of revenue.
Figure 2 Drivers of the Embedded Internet
1. "The Computer for the 21st Century," Scientific American, September 1991
2. Intel® Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT) requires the computer system to have an Intel® AMT-enabled chipset, network hardware and software, as well as connection with a power source and a corporate network connection. Setup
requires configuration by the purchaser and may require scripting with the management console or further integration into existing security frameworks to enable certain functionality. It may also require modifications of implementation of new business processes. With regard to notebooks, Intel AMT may not be available or certain capabilities may be limited over a host OS-based VPN or when connecting wirelessly, on battery power, sleeping, hibernating or powered off. For more
information, see www.intel.com/technology/platform-technology/intel-amt/.
3. Langdoc, Scott. "Advanced CPUs: The Impact on TCO Evaluations of Retail Store IT Investments," Global Retail Insights (An IDC Company), September 2008