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Post-PC Tech Rules at Intel Developer Forum 2016

At this year’s IDF the post-PC era was in full swing as Intel looks to a future dominated by the cloud, 5G, IoT, machine vision, merged reality, artificial intelligence, autonomous cars, drones and data centers.


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There's little doubt that Intel technologies ranging from processing to connectivity to visual intelligence have become staples for today's military system designs. And in this era where the PC is less of a sole driver of Intel's universe, a greater focus is now on vertical markets like virtual reality, drones, intelligent things and big data. All that was crystal clear at last month's Intel Development Conference (IDF16) in San Francisco. The show showcased the latest innovations of the world's largest silicon supplier along with its future road map. COTS Journal's staff was there to see key technology topics and product exhibits at IDF16 from Intel and its partners.

On the first day of the 2016 Intel Developers Forum (IDF16), keynote speaker Brian Krzanich, Intel CEO, highlighted four themes and introduced quite a few new technologies. The four themes show a path to where Intel is headed into the future. These include: 1. Refining the experience of computing; 2. Building a world of visual intelligence; 3. A cloud designed for innovation; and 4. Empowering the next generation innovation.

Project Alloy Open

Exemplifying pretty much all four themes combined, Intel at IDF16 introduced a new Project Alloy Open, all-in-one Virtual Reality platform, a reference design for developers. This wireless head-mounted device (Figure 1) allows users to move around freely to see the real objects in front and interact with a 3D images created by Alloy. In the demo, a real dollar bill was used to cut off a rotating image object. The interaction of virtual space and real-time object is called Merged Reality (MR). This is one step ahead of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). Additionally, Intel is collaborating with Microsoft to optimize the performance of the product with Windows holographic (Microsoft refers to it as mixed reality) running on Project Alloy next year. While there are different business opportunities for VR, there is no clear indication which direction the market will go. Will the low cost VR or high-end merged reality product go mainstream?

Figure 1
At IDF16 Intel CEO Brian Krzanich demonstrated on stage the capability of the Project Alloy Open, all-in-one Virtual Reality platform and how Merged Reality worked.

RealSense technology, another new concept introduced by Intel, included a stereo camera along with the Intel software and processor to allow developers to design applications such as interactive autonomous machines with the 3D view to gauge object depth and distance much like a human does. Developers kits are available now for the OEM. Visual Intelligent (an Intel term and the concept is similar to machine vision) would require RealSense technology. There are many applications for Visual Intelligence targeted by Intel. Among them are factory inspection, automation as well as autonomous driving.

At IDF16 Intel also launched the Joule platform and developer kit for the IoT developers. It includes the support of the Intel RealSense cameras for depth of field (DOF), 802.11ac, USB 3.0, GPIO, Intel HD graphic with 4K video capture and display and developers can have a choice of processor. The Joule 570x comes the 64-bit, 1.7 GHz quad-core Intel Atom T5700 with burst frequency up to 2.4 GHz, 4 Gbytes of LPDDR4 RAM and 16 Gbytes of eMMC memory while the 550x comes with the 1.5 GHz quad-core Intel Atom T5500 processor, 3 Gbytes of LPDDR4 RAM and 8 Gbytes of eMMC memory.

The Joule platform is scalable to support the entry-level Arduino 101 to the advanced Intel Edison and Curie modules. With the Intel Joule platform, high performance system-on-module (SOM) or partner modules, developers can deliver rapid prototypes and take it to production and minimize cost for applications such as computer vision, robotics, drones, IIoT, VR, AR and edge computing. The package is so small it can be packaged with a smart tooth brush or safety glasses.

7th Gen Core Processor Beyond

Intel launched the high performance 7th Gen Intel Core Processor Family to aim at "Immerse Internet", an Intel term referring to the idea that you can view, work and play with super speed. It supports 4K ultra high-definition and 360 degree video and USB-C (40 Gbps) with battery life of up to 10 hours per charge. The processors have an increase of 19 percent in web application (as measured by SYSmark 2014; Intel Core i7-7500U vs. Intel Core i7-6500U) and 12 percent in production performance (as measured by WebXPRT* 2015; Intel Core i7-7500U vs. Intel Core i7-6500U).

Based on the new processor, Dell XPS 13 can deliver a faster CPU of 3.5 GHz (from 3.1 GHz) in Core i7 and increase a 16G RAM clock rate from 1866 MHz to 2133 MHz. According to Navin Shenoy, corporate vice president and general manager for the Client Computing Group at Intel, "Our new 7th Gen Intel Core based systems is 15 times faster than a 5-year-old PC, allow you to watch 4K TV on a laptop." Additionally, Intel predicted that future connectivity will be using fiber optics to move the massive amount of data among networks, Brian explained that silicon would be connecting directly to fiber optics replacing copper (Figure 2).

Figure 2
The future silicon modules will be connecting directly to fiber optics replacing copper to support high data traffic demands.

Industrial Edge, Connected Cars

To support the industrial edge products, Intel reintroduced the Curie module. Based on the Intel Quark SE SoC, the low-power, 32-bit processor comes with 384 Kbytes of flash memory and 80 Kbytes of SRAM. With battery charging capability, it uses the Bluetooth low energy design with 6-axis combo sensor with accelerometer and gyroscope aim at tracking body movement and object motion in healthcare and industrial applications. Intel IQ software kits are available to support user identity in wearable products and make social interaction easier for fitness device wearers.

Transportation and connected car represent a new growth area for many silicon companies and they are actively pursuing this market segment. At IDF16, BMW and Intel made a joint announcement with a dramatic entry in which a driverless BMW model i3 came on stage. The passenger, Elmar Frickenstein, leader of BMW's autonomous driving unit, was welcome by Brian. Intel and BMW partner together in the development of autonomous cars to be produced in 2020. Even though I learned the news from the press release in July, witnessing this in person was still very impactful. Connected car is an important area for Intel as it encompasses both cloud and data.

According to Intel data transfer and consumption would increase dramatically. By 2020, the daily transfer would be 15 Gbytes daily for a person, 4000 Gbytes for automotive, 40,000 Gbytes for an airplane and a remarkable one million Gbytes for a smart factory. Therefore, the management of large quantity of data would be important. Today, Intel has a stronghold in the data center business and would hope to continue that trend. During IDF16, Intel also heighted the importance of having a big and efficient data center, 5G and efficient cloud computing.

Intel's FPGA Future

By acquiring Altera, Intel has included FPGA as part of its strategic offerings. Altera now operates as the Programmable Solutions Group (PSG) within Intel. On the third day of IDF16 held in San Francisco, the PSG held its Intel SoC FPGA Developer Forum (ISDF) where Intel's CEO, Brian Krzanich, and PSG corporate vice president and general manager, Dan McNamara, addressed the audience. Krzanich confirmed to the audience Intel's commitment to investing in and growing its FPGA business. FPGAs provide multi-function acceleration for various applications such as autonomous cars, data center, traffic gateway hubs, smart factory, military and wireless application.

For example, during holidays when phone call peak traffic creates heavier workload for the data center, FPGA-based data centers can be reconfigured to meet that need with a much shorter lead time then the alternative solutions. FPGAs and SoC FPGAs provide the benefits of performance, flexibility, optimization of hardware and software programmability with good power efficiency. The latest product Stratix 10 FPGA, based on Intel's 14nm Tri-Gate process, are the first Intel-branded FPGAs, and mark the company's FPGA commitment. For the above reasons, Schneider Electric has selected Intel's FPGAs and SoC FPGAs as an end-to-end solution to power its IoT, sensor and device network.

San Jose, CA.
(408) 544-7000

Santa Clara, CA
(408) 765-8080




Intel Partner Solutions Showcased at IDF16

As always at Intel Developer Forum, Intel's partners were out in full force showcasing a variety of technologies. Here's some the most interesting ones from IDF16.

Secure Cloud and Edge Computing

Cloud and Edge computing are key technologies that the defense industry can leverage to its particular needs. Like the general consumer space, military uses are ramping up their appetites for increasing data transfers and data consumption. At IDF16, Emerson Network Power introduced the SmartCabinet solution to meet the demand. This unit is a pre-fabricated system optimized for prescribed IT load. Additionally it has physical security and remote monitoring capability. Its SCB1000, 2000 and 3000 models are all TAA compliant, with approximately between 265- to 430-pounds depending on hardware content. The power include a single 1500VA /3000VA UPS to support up to 18 minutes of run time in case of external power failure.

This product is a partnership of Emerson Network Power, Lenovo and OSISoft to support data center, IoT and edge computing. The system uses REST-based (Representational State Transfer) Redfish API, (an open industry standard specification and schema that specifies a RESTful interface). The SmartCabinet supports two Lenovo System x3550 M5 servers used to discover, track and monitor system configuration and performance while the integrated OSIsoft PI System focuses on data analytics to provide insights of the data movement and use. Redfish is an open specification developed by the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF), an industry standards organization to simplify network management. Other board members of DMTF include Intel, Microsoft, Dell, Hitachi and HP and industry support for the organization has been gaining momentum in recent years.

Emerson Network Power, Columbus, OH. (614) 888-0246.


Internet-of-Things for Smart Cities

Connecting defense assets whether they are a facilities-based or deployed is part of the DoD's broad network-centric goals. That's piqued an interest in Smart City technologies. An example showcased at IDF16 was Advantech collaborating with AT&T and GE to demonstrate the concept of a Smart City. AT&T, provider of the networking infrastructure in the city for many years, stated that smart city solutions have a purpose. The integration of technology will provide sustainability, cost reduction, citizen well-being and economic development. If done right, smart city solutions will connect utility, vehicles, homes, meters, health (hospital) and security. Currently, AT&T has 29 million IoT devices on its network.

The AT&T network also supports the GE Predix platform for city data management. Independently, Advantech, the world's largest industrial computer manufacturer, provides an IoT architecture which runs the Microsoft Azure on top of its hardware platform to communicate with carious sensor and IO including RF modules, automation, and smart mesh. Its hardware offerings include a full-line of Intel-based (Bay Trail/Apollo Lake) single board computer as well as ruggedized custom designs for 24/7 operation with temperature range from -40 to +85 degree centigrade with optional conformal coating (Figure A).

Figure A
This Intel-based ruggedized custom SBC supports temperature range from -40 to +85 degrees with optional conformal coating.

On the software side, the Advantech platform supports the GE Predix for machine data management and has built-in GPS using Wind River's IDP 3.1. Other useful IO and options include HDMI, MIPI camera, 16 Gbyte DDR3/4 memories, USB, Wi-Fi and Ethernet. Smart city infrastructure as provided by "Current powered by GE" is part of the solution. These connected sensor enabled intelligent nodes, which attach to street lighting poles, are multi-function hubs with embedded sensors to detect pedestrians and vehicle metadata, temperature, pressure, air quality, vibration, noise, and gunshot that can feed data through a network, such as AT&T's, into GE's industrial data platform, Predix.

Meanwhile Current by GE will also provide APIs for ISV's (independent software vendors) and developers to access the data from these nodes, in real-time, for applications. Currently, AT&T is conducting a smart city pilot program in seven locations including Atlanta, GA, Chicago, IL, Dallas, TX, Georgia Institute of Technology, Miami-Dade County, FL, Montgomery County, MD and Chapel Hill, NC. Advantech, AT&T and GE are each providing a platform to help OEM and end customers build future smart cities which will ultimately benefit their citizens.

Advantech, Irvine, CA. (949) 519-3800.


The Innovative 3D XPoint Memory

Memory density is important to all sorts of high-compute applications, the defense market is no exception. At IDF16 Micron showcased its new line of 3D XPoint memory technology. Micron branded this non-volatile memory technology, jointly developed with Intel, as QuantX. According to Micron, QuantX SSD performance can read at 10 microseconds and write at 20 microseconds or less, 10 times better than NAND flash-based SSD (Figure B). Micron positions QuantX in the mid-price range with better performance than NAND, but is still 4 to 5 times higher than NAND. According to Micron demand is very high. Micron is also working with its ecosystem members to develop controllers and end products.

Figure B
Based on the new 3D XPoint technology, QuantX is priced in the mid-range of all memory technology but with better performance than NAND.

The 3D XPoint memory technology is a new innovation. Its architecture shaped like a three dimensional checkerboard with memory cells sit at the intersection of the word and bit line. Data can be written in small sizes and in a very efficient manner. This new development is 10 times denser than NAND and can potentially deliver an impressive performance of 1000 times lower latency than NAND. Though the technology was co-developed by two companies, Intel has separately branded its offering as Intel Optane. Intel's main target is data center while Micron will pursue the IoT and mobile applications. At IDF16, it showed off a 140 Gbyte SSD and is said to be working with Facebook, LinkedIn and the like to further advance the use of Intel Optane. What will the future hold? This new 3D XPoint innovation will continue to improve and may be the memory of the future. But others are not standing still. IBM is working on a competitive non-volatile memory technology, a 3 bits/cell Phase Change Memory (PCM) and can be a strong competitor.

Micron, Boise, ID. (208) 368-4000.


Internet-of-Things Enables Predictive Maintenance

Military system developers are looking closely at industrial IoT technologies that can leverage for defense systems. IoT solutions for built for manufacturing downtime prevention are an example. Along those lines, ADLINK Technology showcased a Predictive Maintenance and Quality solution at IDF16. The company partnered with IBM to deliver called Vortex Edge PMQ. It is a pre-integrated hardware/software including the Intel-based MXE series cognitive gateways, IBM PMQ business analytics software, Data distribution by PrismTech Vortex software and the optional SETO-1000 industrial appliance if additional edge computing power is needed. Sensors are placed inside the target manufacturing equipment to monitor temperature, vibration, movement and other necessary parameters depends on the particular equipment. A healthy performance profile, say temperature, is used to compare with the data collected from the sensors in almost real-time.

When the temperature data collected from the sensors are outside the acceptable profile, the IBM PMQ analytic software will be able to analyze and provide actionable items such as informing the operator for further action. Edge computing is essential in predictive maintenance. Having the ability to send data from sensors to the cloud is not enough because someone has to decide what to do with the massive data collection. What edge computing does here is for the ADLINK MXE cognitive gateway product to process that data and only send the information with "insight" such as "the cooler is overheating; need action" to the cloud (if the operator is remote). This will reduce data transferring and processing time.

ADLINK Technology, San Jose, CA. (408) 360-0200.