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Intel wants to put the smart into your smartwatch with data, analytics and chips

Mark Hachman | Dec. 10, 2014
Intel may be late to the IoT game but it's working hard to catch up, emphasizing its data centers and analytics offerings as much as its chips.

Intel's working hard to establish a chiphold in the Internet of Things, as it emphasized in an "IoT Insights" event on Tuesday. But it's not going to go it alone.

Just as Intel's Xeon chips are built upon an ecosystem of partnerships, standards, and specifications, the company's forging similar kinds of agreements in IoT--a space dominated by embedded processors that already have a head start on Intel's Quark and Edison chips.

Intel would seem to be operating at a disadvantage. ARM dominates the smartphone business, which is defined by small but powerful processors, while Intel's Atom chips have struggled to gain traction. In wearables, the challenge is tougher: Processors are smaller and consume even less power.

Not surprisingly, then, the IoT markets Intel chose to highlight put less of a priority on low power and more on processing data, an area where Intel excels. Intel used the event to launch a new IoT gateway, a device that will take in data from embedded sensors and devices and feed data to Intel's data center chips and services. 

John Gilbert, the chief operating officer of Rudin Management, which operates a network of data centers and other buildings across New York City, described how data centers could actually allocate less energy to cooling as employees left for lunch. Employees generate 100 watts in heat per person, and Rudin saved a dollar per square foot per year in that savings alone--one million dollars per year. That savings opportunity wouldn't have been detected, let alone realized, without an investment in sensors and analytics, he said.

Diane Bryant, the senior vice president responsible for Intel's data center group, said the increased number of sensors and IoT devices--50 billion devices by 2020--creates a "virtuous cycle," promoting demand for infrastructure and then analytics for that data, which then spurs growth of more sensors. Intel's partners, including GE and IBM, recognize this, Intel executives said. But even a company like eBay can use data analysis to zero in on fraudulent transactions, Bryant said.

"Big data analytics is the next big technology disruptor," she said.

To her credit, Bryant highlighted a Gartner study that showed that 65 percent of those polled among enterprises simply didn't understand the value of big data--which could explain why Intel hosted the event.

Why this matters: While a competitor like ARM might regard the Internet of Things as a market it can dominate with its own embedded chips, Intel is taking a more holistic view: It can dominate the embedded device market via software, its data center technology, and more. It will be interesting to see whether Intel can use these other elements to dominate the market. 


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