Besides being the world's largest chip maker, Intel Corp. (www.intel.com) is also known to be an active researcher of wireless sensor technologies and applications. Why? Because the company sees a future filled with sensors that will require processing power to achieve their potential. And processing power is what Intel is all about.
It is no surprise, then, to learn that during its recent developer forum Intel outlined long-term research to make electronic products "user aware": smarter, safer, and capable of adapting to the ways people use them. Intel senior fellow and director of the company's Corporate Technology Group, Justin Rattner, explained in a keynote that today's electronic products are not equipped to know how they are being used, who is using them, or what the user wants to accomplish. Directing every move leads to frustration. Rattner believes the future of electronics will be driven by the need for simpler, more intuitive ways of dealing with technologies that in turn help people do what they want to do. "A user-aware platform will be any device that can take care of itself, knows who we are, where we are, and tries to anticipate what we want done," Rattner says. "They will need digital senses to be aware of their surroundings and what they are doing. They will also need new levels of intelligence to understand our needs and collaborate with other electronics to take action on our behalf while doing no harm in the process."
User-aware platforms will place new demands on the way the industry develops hardware, software, services, and interfaces. Intel is now using multiple processing cores in each processor, and the company predicts there will be from tens to hundreds of energy-efficient computing cores inside a single processor before long. Each chip will be capable of dynamically assigning processing cores (single or multiple) along with memory and bandwidth to specific tasks such as seeing and listening. These future platforms will use software to isolate each task's computing resources so they run better and don't interfere with other applications.
For the user-aware platform to take care of itself it must be able to sense its surroundings and respond to threats and problems that endanger its ability to function. To achieve this, Intel is investigating the use of sensor technologies combined with dedicated logic within systems. One example is installing heat sensors inside servers to monitor overheating. The sensors can trigger the intelligent reallocation of workloads among hundreds of systems inside a data center to avoid data loss or system failure.