Intel envisions smarter autonomous cars with Altera FPGAs

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich provides clarity on how the company plans to use Altera FPGAs

For decades, Intel processors have powered most of the world's PCs. But the company is now looking outside its conventional chips to FPGAs, or field programmable gate arrays, as it searches for ways to advance computing.

As part of that effort, Intel is in the process of buying FPGA specialist company Altera for a whopping US$16.7 billion. The FPGAs could find a place in IOT devices and also in autonomous cars, said CEO Brian Krzanich at the company's annual investor conference Thursday.

FPGAs are unlike CPUs that power laptops and desktops today; for one thing, they can be easily reprogrammed to run specific functions. FPGAs are 25 times faster than CPUs and will allow Intel to build more functionality into devices and cars without requiring more power, Krzanich said.

The FPGAs can be loaded with vehicle-related algorithms, which could define how cars function and react. A lot of that reaction will be based on sensors, whose data can be processed on FPGAs in the car. Cars need to react immediately, especially when it comes to avoiding accidents, and FPGAs can provide the processing power to quickly deliver results. Conventional CPUs don't have that level of processing speed.

Massive amounts of data will also be collected from IoT devices and sent to servers in the cloud, which FPGAs can then quickly analyze. In addition, Krzanich envisions FPGAs helping to analyze health data, and said the processors are being used in a current project: Intel is working with a cardiovascular research group on a program to collect data from the smartwatches and scales of 500 participants. Intel is collecting 300 million data points a day for the project, and algorithms on FPGAs are helping to  deliver analyses.

With technologies like RealSense, a 3D camera, Intel is also hoping devices will recognize objects and people. In conjunction with RealSense, FPGAs could be used for image recognition in robots.

Microsoft is currently using FPGAs to speed up the delivery of text, image and other search results from servers. Next year, Intel will start shipping server chips with FPGAs. 

Because of their limited functionality however, FPGAs will supplement CPUs, Intel's bread and butter business. The company will put FPGAs next to CPUs, speeding up processing by avoiding  the necessity of having data be routed through various components on a motherboard. However, it's not clear whether Intel will put FPGAs in laptops and desktops.

Many believe Intel overpaid when it announced the purchase of Altera in June. The biggest question was how Intel would use FPGAs, considering they could possibly draw a lot of power on account of their processing speed. But when used for the right applications, FPGAs have the promise of freeing up processing load from CPUs, ultimately improving the power efficiency of computers, especially servers.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Agam Shah

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Brother MFC-L3745CDW Colour Laser Multifunction

Learn more >

Mobile

Exec

Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?