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Smart tech, big data top priorities at Intel Labs

Intel CTO offers glimpse at what the chipmaker is working on to improve people's lives, rather than just making things faster or more efficient.

Intel CTO Justin Rattner
Intel CTO Justin Rattner at the chipmaker's annual research summit. Intel

SAN FRANCISCO -- It's what inside that counts, posited Intel Chief Technology Officer Justin Rattner.

Now, for a microprocessor giant, this tagline should be interpreted in multiple ways.

The obvious reading being that, because it's coming from Intel, the company is touting its own hardware bits.

But being that this is the theme of this year's Research@Intel summit on Tuesday, the line is also meant to promote what Intel Labs has been cooking up to improve people's lives and communities rather than to just play a numbers game of making devices more faster or efficient.

This year, the processor giant's research showcase has been organized into the following four categories: enriching lives, intelligent "everything," the data society, and tech essentials.

More specifically, some of the projects run the gamut from personalized shopping to connected vehicle safety to discovering relationships among data communities.

For example, Rattner showed a demo of "smart headlights" technology integrated on a vehicle driving through snow, which is being pitched to top-tier automakers right now. Citing the 2010 National Highway Traffic Safety Report, Rattner posited that smart headlights could prevent up to 800,000 crashes, 200,000 injuries, and even 3,000 fatalities.

Intel futurist and chief evangelist Steve Brown argued that "if we can do anything with technology," then the task is figuring out the best way to spend resources rather than just throwing them at anything and everything.

Brown noted that Intel conducts approximately 250,000 interviews worldwide annually, asking people both what they need and what they want from life.

Those responses have been compiled and analyzed, boiling down to these six categories: learning, entertainment, creativity, wellness, productivity, and feeling connected.

Rattner said these categories represent the kind of research going on at both Intel Labs and around the world right now.

While providing an overview of Intel's international research facilities, Rattner highlighted the sixth and newest center in China.

Rattner said that "given the massive size of its communications infrastructure," China was deemed the "perfect place to do this research."

Thus, promoting Intel's ongoing evolving mobility strategy, the ICRI for Mobile Networking and Computing specializes in development for telecommunications infrastructure, systems, and services.

Naturally, figuring out what to do about big data is also on the docket at Intel Labs around the world.

One such area is centered on graph analytics technologies, which is enabling analytics based upon sparse data.

"This work is intended to make graph analytics technology ubiquitous and available to the industry at large," explained Rattner.

The two principle tools are Intel's Graph Builder and the Graph Lab developed at the ISTC-Cloud Computing center.

Pointing out that both of these products are open-source, Rattner continued that that these should be "rapidly embraced" by the technology community.

Current users include Google, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix and Pandora, among others.

But many of these technologies sprouting up and fueled by big data have also given way to media buzz topics such as "the rise of the sharing economy" and "collaborative consumption."

While sometimes it seems like news feeds are so saturated with these topics that they lose value, that doesn't eliminate the opportunities that exist here.

At Intel, research scientists said it is referred to as "the data society."

"More than ever it's become not just acceptable but desirable to do things with people we don't know at all," remarked Intel Labs director Genevieve Bell, arguing that people are sleeping in the homes of people they don't know, borrowing the cars of strangers, and even video-streaming romantic dates to online viewers for feedback.

"That seems useful," Bell said.

This story originally appeared as "Smart technologies, telco infrastructures are top priorities at Intel Labs" on ZDNet.