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Quark chip

New chips could power the Internet of Things

The future just got a little bit closer with Intel's announcement that it is working on the Quark X1000 processor family, designed specifically to power the Internet of Things. The first Quark chip reference boards should start to see the light of day by the end of the year, though it may take longer for them to actually start appearing in devices.

The availability of a low-power, tiny core for sensors and devices may accelerate the growth of a world where everything is intelligent and connected. In fact, Machina Research, a machine-to-machine advisory group, predicts that within the next eight years, the number of connected devices will top 50 billion worldwide. That prediction was made before the Intel announcement, which could drive the numbers higher more quickly.

The world envisioned by Machina, and likely now Intel, sees sensors and processors inside almost everything, from doors that report how many times they are opened to streetlights that can detect faulty bulbs to roads that know when potholes are forming. Many of these devices will be able to take some type of actions on their own, like ordering supplies or even making repairs without the need for human intervention. They will communicate with one another using sparse data in the form of machine-to-machine (M2M) code. And it looks like that intelligent back end could be powered by the new Quark chips.

Many of these intelligent sensors could one day find their way into government service, where they might become part of creating smarter places to live and work. Intel is partnering with the cities of Dublin and London to build a reference solution that could revolutionize urban management, providing citizens with better cities and improved municipal services with lower costs.

"It's one thing to install computing power in billions of smart objects," said Intel President Renée James. "What we're doing is harder — making powerful computing solutions that turn data to wisdom and search for answers to the world's most complex problems like cancer care.."

The Intel effort to push into this area could certainly make smart cities a reality more quickly, though other companies like ARM have been working with tiny computing devices and already have chips installed inside millions of microcontrollers.

In any case, the world where machines can interact with each other, take actions and even heal themselves without human help is coming. This week's events may just accelerate the transformation.

Posted by John Breeden II on Sep 18, 2013 at 12:14 PM

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Reader Comments

Mon, Nov 18, 2013

These sensors to be connected to the internet of things will be typically connected via Bluetooth or some other RF radio. These are typically power hungry. What is actually powering these IoT applications? Batteries, which need to be continuously recharged. "Power" is ultimately going to be biggest challenge moving forward for the IoT. This is especially considering these devices will need to become smarter than I smart phones to gain traction in the market place. Smarter typically means more sensors and data, which means greater power consumption. This means an alternative to the battery is needed.

Tue, Sep 24, 2013 Joanne Christian

I am constantly in awe of the trust that people put in the internet. At home I have installed a lot of intelligent components. It was foolish enough of little old me to connect some of these components to a network in the name of convenience. Luckily, I am not important enough to be the target of people who are both evil and technically skilled. The government is another story. Bad people can be surprisingly inventive and crime is their "day job." Sensors and other hardware components can fail or be caused to fail. And even worse, if they're connected to networked microcomputers they can be tampered with. I would advise caution in adopting this type of technology on the internet without serious efforts to implement security. I also sense an ulterior motive. I love ARM. They make awesome microcontrollers and provide great APIs, but I wonder how much of this article is an attempt on their part to increase market share is. I can't fault them, but as an environmentalist, I see additional issues with the disposal of the chips. Put a chip and a bunch of sensors in everything? Sounds great. But unless they last forever or are biodegradable, we're just making more garbage. The used components would also have to be carefully disposed of so that bad people could not access the information stored on the chip (even after "erasing" this data may be accessible) and cause harm.

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