IDF keynote: from stylish wearables to wireless laptop charging

There was a lot of talk about wearables and IoT, but the PC got love, too

In the opening keynote at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco, Intel CEO, Brian Krzanich talked about not only the emergence of wearable technology and the Internet of Things (IoT), but also of the key roles that partnerships and developers need to play in order to create truly great products.

Collaboration on wearables

Intel has come to the realisation that strong collaboration is needed in the wearable space to make products that will appeal to a broad audience. While Intel can supply the tech that makes a wearable gadget tick, and the reference design that's needed to implement it, the actual style of the products is left to other brands that Intel partners with, such as timepiece maker Fossil, and headphone maker, SMS.

Equally as important as the style are the development environments for these products, so that they can be used across as wide an array of scenarios as possible. There has to be plenty of opportunity there for developers to make the most of the technology in the easiest possible way.

To this end, Intel has formed the Open Internet Consortium for home devices, which has over 70 partners aiming to build a standard, open platform and protocols for developers to make the most of the devices. The torrents of data created by wearables and IoT devices also means that data analytics will play a crucial role in the way they are used and how effective they can be. Intel is facilitating a cloud-based solution in this area with it’s Analytics for Wearables (A-Wear) developer program.

Edison to power IoT

Intel today also used the keynote to announce the availability of its Edison development platform, which is a brand new product in the company’s IoT category. Edison is designed to be a low-power SoC (system on a chip) that can be placed into any device or scenario where computing and connectivity are desired.

For the Internet of Things: Intel's Edison development board.
For the Internet of Things: Intel's Edison development board.

Unlike Intel’s Galileo board, which is aimed at hobbyists and beginners, the new Edison board hopes to tap into a market of professional developers and entrepreneurs who might otherwise not have the resources to fulfil their needs. Initially, it will support development through Intel’s Arduino kit and C/C++, with support for Python, Node.JS, and visual programming support to be added at some point in the future.

Applications of the Edison can be broad, with examples shown at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco including an Edison-powered quad copter capable of trcking a subject, a Braille printer, and even interactive garments.

Powering Edison is a 22-nanometre Intel Atom SoC with two cores and a 500MHz frequency, and it includes memory (1GB LPDDR3), flash storage (4GB EMMC), as well as a Broadcom module that provides Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n) and Bluetooth. The entire board is about the size of a postage stamp.

Pricing starts at $US50 for the board, though there are also Arduino and breakout kits available. Intel hopes that aggressive pricing will make it easier for smaller developers to use this platform to implement their ideas and get their products to market.

Much love for PCs

The keynote was a to-the-point affair that enthusiastically highlighted the current wearable technology trend and the proliferation of connected devices, but there was also plenty on offer in the PC space.

The company's 14 nanometre, 5th generation CPUs are now in "volume production", with the Core M being the first cab off the rank for tablets and hybrids, and with the rest of the 5th generation family (Core i3, i5, and i7) on track for availability in the first quarter of 2015.

More impressively, Intel showed a working sample of its next microarchitecture on the 14-nanometre process, which is codenamed Skylake. Not surprisingly, Intel said we should expect a significant improvement in performance, battery life, and power efficiency. Production for Skylake is scheduled for the second half of 2015.

The 2015 version of the Core processor, codenamed Skylake, seen here running 3DMark.
The 2015 version of the Core processor, codenamed Skylake, seen here running 3DMark.

Eliminating wires and passwords

By the end of next year, Intel will have a reference design for PCs that eliminates the need for any cables, be it for docking or charging. If that sounds too good to be true, then you will be happy to know that Intel showed products proving these concepts, using Wireless Gigabit (WiGig) for docking, and magnetic resonance for wireless charging.

The demonstration consisted of a wireless charger installed in a wooden table with a 2in top, and a group of LEDs passing over it to show where the 'hot spot' for charging was located. On this hot spot, all sorts of gadgets can be charged, as long as they are equipped with a retro-fitted case, but the most impressive thing is that a next generation laptop was shown charging wirelessly on this spot.

Using a board of LEDs to find the 'hot spot' for the wireless charger.
Using a board of LEDs to find the 'hot spot' for the wireless charger.

Intel's vision for this wireless charging technology is to make it ubiquitous for all devices, and for the chargers to be not only in the form of pads, but also pre-installed in furniture or even at cafes and airports.

From cutting wires, to cuting out passwords: Intel said that it's aiming to eradicate the use of passwords, too, beginning in 2015. It wants you to become the password, meaning using your face and biometrics to access not only your computer, but also the Web sites you frequent.

The writer travelled to IDF in San Francisco as a guest of Intel.

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