& cplSiteName &

Intel Envisions 'Smart Dust'

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
3/20/2003
50%
50%

Every sci-fi geek has heard of smart dust – tiny nanomachines that float around, collecting data and transmitting information. They played a role in Neal Stephenson's novel The Diamond Age, where he talked about clouds of smart dust floating invisibly in the atmosphere, occasionally getting into fights and leaving smart-dust carcasses that could eventually cause lung damage.

Smart dust isn't quite reality yet, but bigger versions – where the dust motes are small computer boards – are already in use. Motes are among dozens of ideas being pursued by Intel Research, a relatively new R&D arm of Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) devoted to technologies that have feasible applications but aren't yet serious businesses.

Intel executives gave the press a first introduction to Intel Research on Wednesday, at a reception near the company's Santa Clara, Calif., headquarters. Other technologies on display ranged from audio-visual speech recognition – where the computer reads your lips as well as interpreting your voice – to chips for analyzing DNA and proteins.

The motes fit into a larger Intel dream of "proactive computing" (never mind that there's no such word). This would be the next step after ubiquitous computing: With so many computing devices surrounding us, we're going to want them to talk with each other rather than having to interact with a human all the time, says David Tennenhouse, vice president of Intel's corporate technology group.

Part of the idea is to cut down on information overload from cell phones, PDAs, and whatever other devices invade your life in the future. "You want to have oceans of computers standing behind those, working behind the scenes," Tennenhouse says.

The life-cycle of an Intel Research project starts at a university. Intel has placed R&D offices near campuses such as U.C. Berkeley or the University of Cambridge, and it seeds those campuses with grants to pursue interesting-sounding research. As a line of study develops, Intel may increase the grants and start doing parallel projects internally.

The Intel-internal projects were on display at Wednesday's event. These are still in the research phase – they have conceivable applications, but it's not clear whether they'll become Intel products. Many could become areas that Intel simply encourages because they drive the need for microprocessor technology, the company's interest in video games being one example.

For the researchers, these projects present a chance to dabble without the usual market pressures. That's one reason why 13-year Intel veteran Ralph Kling, a low-power electronics expert, joined the mote team nine months ago. "You don't get to define new architectures that often," he says.

An Intel mote is a small computer board – about one-third the size of a credit card – that houses a sensor, a microcontroller, and a radio. The idea is to get these devices to create ad hoc networks among themselves, transmitting data to some central server or gateway. This would allow remote monitoring of conditions such as temperature or humidity; the idea works with chemical and biological sensors as well (anthrax detection was a popular example among the researchers).

The problem is that these devices have to be low-power, because they'll often be in places where it's inconvenient or impossible to be changing batteries all the time. That means they have to rely on very short-range transmission schemes, such as Bluetooth.

In an environment like a factory floor, many of the motes would be several network hops away from the gateway. Data would hop from mote to mote, with the chances of packet loss increasing at each hop.

Intel's demonstration on Wednesday showed the idea of placing a few 802.11 motes into the network. These acted as hubs, with other motes using their 802.11 brethren as gateways to the real gateway, thus cutting down the number of hops for most traffic. It also lowers the amount of work each mote has to do – since they wouldn't be forwarding one another's data in those multihop scenarios – which in turn lowers their power consumption and increases battery life.

So, what will it take for these motes to become truly dust-sized? The biggest challenge turns out to be the battery, because most of the other parts will shrink as technology advances.

"Sensors are very shrinkable using nanotechnology. CPUs [central processing units] we know will shrink. Memory, the same thing – it's all Moore's Law, essentially," Kling says.

Moore's Law doesn't apply to the radio, because it's made of analog components, which don't necessarily shrink with new generations of manufacturing technology. But Intel's plan is to move most of the radio into the digital realm and even handle many functions in software – the so-called "software-defined radio."

That leaves the battery, and because the battery's going to be slow to shrink, it might not be worth striving for dust-sized motes just yet. "Do you want to spend a lot of time designing a package that's going to be dominated by the battery?" Kling says.

Nearly 100 teams are using the motes, Tennenhouse says. They're being used to monitor birds' habitats on Great Duck Island off the coast of Maine. More practically, they could be used to monitor temperature throughout a building. Or an airplane could spray them over a forest fire, and they could report temperature levels for particular locations, giving firefighters a map of what's going on.

Among the most likely applications is one Intel itself could use. The company has up to 4,000 sensors in each of its manufacturing facilities, or fabs (fabrication facilities). They monitor the vibrations of fab equipment, detecting early signs of wear and tear so the machines can be fixed before they break. Great idea, but the 4,000 sensors have to be read by hand – a job that could be automated by motes.

The motes are still in the prototype stage. Intel's hope is to condense the board into a single chip, which doesn't appear likely until after 2005.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

(3)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Sisyphus
50%
50%
Sisyphus,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:24:15 AM
re: Intel Envisions 'Smart Dust'

Accoring to Merriam Webster

Main Entry: pro-+ac-+tive
Pronunciation: (")prO-'ak-tiv
Function: adjective
Date: 1933
1 [pro-] : relating to, caused by, or being interference between previous learning and the recall or performance of later learning <proactive inhibition="" memory="" of="">
2 [pro- + reactive] : acting in anticipation of future problems, needs, or changes</proactive>
Pete Baldwin
50%
50%
Pete Baldwin,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:24:08 AM
re: Intel Envisions 'Smart Dust'
Yes, I've seen that dictionary entry, and it's wrong wrong WRONG. No dictionary had that word 10 years ago -- probably not even 5 -- and, like "ain't," they shouldn't add it just because people use it.



Look, I realize new words will get invented from time to time. But they 1) should actually mean something new, and 2) shouldn't come from marketing speak, fer chrissake.



"Proactive" is not a word. I ain't backing down on that.

CogswellCogs
50%
50%
CogswellCogs,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:24:07 AM
re: Intel Envisions 'Smart Dust'
Interesting.

You claim that proactive is not a word, no dictionary had it ten or even five years ago. As Sisyphus noted, it first appeared in Merriam-Webster in 1933. Wow, they are celebrating seventy years of being wrong. And to prove your point, you link to a source that also contains the following advice:

Avoid using sexiest words such as "mankind" or "man."

Hmmmm - "man" is not one of top ten sexiest words on my list. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Of course, I would expect nothing less than this from LR. You aren't also the founder of a research company providing consulting to companies building the optical Internet, are you? Oops, that's the other guy. Never mind.

Cogs
Light Reading’s Upskill U is a FREE, interactive, online educational resource that delivers must-have education on themes that relate to the overall business transformation taking place in the communications industry.
NEXT COURSE
Wednesday, July 27, 1:00PM EDT
The Changing Face of the Data Center World
Rodney M. Elder, Senior Solutions Architect, Equinix
UPCOMING COURSE SCHEDULE
Wednesday, August 3, 1:00PM EDT
The Central Office Re-Architected as a Data Center
Guru Parulkar, Executive Director, Open Networking Research Center, Open Networking Lab
Wednesday, August 10, 1:00PM EDT
Telcos & Open Source 101
Phil Robb, Senior Technical Director, OpenDaylight
Friday, August 12, 1:00PM EDT
The Role of Open Source in NFV
Jim Fagan, Director, Cloud Practice, Telstra
in association with:
From The Founder
In the first episode of a four-part series, Light Reading Founder and CEO Steve Saunders and Calix President and CEO Carl Russo drive around town discussing the disruptive mega-changes in the communications industry and where hope lies for service providers to meet the escalating demands of the cloud.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
VeEX Test & Measurement Solutions

7|25|16   |   08:57   |   (0) comments


Cyrille Morelle, president and CEO of VeEX Inc., talks test and measurement with Light Reading's Steve Saunders at BCE 2016. This includes innovative products such as VeSion Cloud-Based platform for network monitoring; MTTplus Modular Test platform for Access, Business, Carrier Ethernet, Transport and Core services; and OPX-BOX+ for Fiber Optics.
LRTV Custom TV
VeEX: Live From BCE 2016

7|25|16   |   03:20   |   (0) comments


VeEX's Senior Director of Business Development, Perry Romano, explains how VeEX provides tools to help install, maintain, monitor and manage network infrastructure efficiently and effectively. The portfolio of products on display include the RXT-6000, MTTplus and TX300s.
LRTV Custom TV
Real-Time Telemetry & Analytics for Intelligent SDN Orchestration

7|25|16   |   03:09   |   (0) comments


Packet Design CEO Scott Sherwood discusses how real-time network telemetry and analytics are enabling a new breed of SDN orchestration applications.
From the Founder
The Russo Report: Driving Disruption

7|25|16   |   07:44   |   (0) comments


In the first episode of a four-part series, Light Reading Founder and CEO Steve Saunders and Calix President and CEO Carl Russo drive around town discussing the disruptive mega-changes in the communications industry and where hope lies for service providers to meet the escalating demands of the cloud.
LRTV Custom TV
NetScout: Maximizing Enterprise Cloud for Digital Transformation

7|20|16   |   04:53   |   (0) comments


Light Reading Editor Mitch Wagner talks to NetScout CMO Jim McNiel about maximizing the benefits of enterprise cloud and digital transformation while minimizing potential pitfalls with a proper monitoring and instrumentation strategy.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Ciena's VP Offers a Career Crash Course

7|20|16   |   4:14   |   (0) comments


How did Ciena's Vice President of Sales, Angela Finn, carve out her career path? Simple, she tells WiC. She stayed true to her company, customers and principles. She shares her advice for women on how to be authentic and credible, as well as for companies that want to make a real change to their culture and practices.
LRTV Custom TV
NFV in 2016: Part 2 – Climbing the Virtualization Maturity Curve

7|19|16   |   06:56   |   (0) comments


Many of the initial use case implementations are single-vendor and self-contained. The industry is still climbing the virtualization maturity curve, needing further clarity and stability in the NFV infrastructure (NFVi) and greater availability and choice of virtualized network functions (VNFs). Interoperability between NFVis and VNFs from different vendors ...
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Versa Networks' Kumar Mehta on SD-WAN Managed Services

7|19|16   |     |   (0) comments


In Silicon Valley, Steve Saunders sits down with Versa's Kumar Mehta for an interview focused on why service providers are building SD-WAN managed services, and how Versa's telco customers are innovating.
LRTV Custom TV
Juniper Networks & The Evolution of NFV

7|19|16   |   06:01   |   (0) comments


Senior Juniper Networks executives talk to Light Reading Founder & CEO Steve Saunders about NFV developments and the recent independent evaluation by test lab EANTC of Juniper's Cloud CPE solution.
LRTV Interviews
CenturyLink Goes Beyond Managed WiFi

7|19|16   |     |   (0) comments


CenturyLink's managed WiFi allows enterprises, such as retailers and resorts, to track guest WiFi usage in order to help them better communicate with customers.
LRTV Interviews
AT&T Launches Network Functions on Demand

7|17|16   |   05:26   |   (0) comments


Roman Pacewicz, Senior Vice President, Offer Management & Service Integration, AT&T Business Solutions, discusses the operator's launch of its Network Functions on Demand service.
LRTV Interviews
Enterprise Pitch for Ciscosson

7|14|16   |   04:43   |   (0) comments


After seven months of near silence, Cisco and Ericsson executives publicly discussed details on their extensive partnership. Among the tidbits shared by Martin Zander, VP, group strategy programs, Ericsson, and Doug Webster, VP service provider marketing, Cisco: The partnership was initially launched to serve the service provider market, but is already gaining ...
Upcoming Live Events
September 13-14, 2016, The Curtis Hotel, Denver, CO
September 27, 2016, Philadelphia, PA
November 3, 2016, The Montcalm Marble Arch, London
November 30, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 6-8, 2016,
May 16-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Five of the Top 10 most targeted countries in Check Point Software Technologies' global Malware & Threat Index for Q1 2016 are in Africa.
Hot Topics
Kevin Lo's Move to Facebook: Sign of Things to Come?
Patrick Donegan, Chief Analyst, Heavy Reading, 7/20/2016
Verizon's Next With VNFs
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 7/21/2016
Ericsson Ejects CEO Vestberg
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 7/25/2016
Facebook Gets Its Drone On
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 7/22/2016
Is Dish Going Down the Drain?
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 7/21/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
There's no question that, come 2020, 5G technology will turn the world's conception of what mobile networking is on its head. Within the world of 5G development, Dr. ...
I've enjoyed interviewing many interesting people since I rejoined Light Reading, but William A. "Bill" Owens certainly takes the biscuit, as we say where I come from.
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

Our world has evolved through innovation from the Industrial Revolution of the 1740s to the information age, and it is now entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution, driven by technology. Technology is driving a paradigm shift in the way digital solutions deliver a connected world, changing the way we live, communicate and provide solutions. It can have a powerful impact on how we tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems. In this radio show, Caroline Dowling, President of Communications Infrastructure & Enterprise Computing at Flex, will join Women in Comms Director Sarah Thomas to discuss the impact technology has on society and how it can be a game-changer across the globe; improving lives and creating a smarter world. Dowling, a Cork, Ireland, native and graduate of Harvard Business School's Advanced Management Program, will also discuss her experience managing an international team focused on innovation in an age of high-speed change.