Intel's $30 million investment in two new research centers that will focus on cloud computing and embedded technology is the latest in a string of facilities that are run in conjunction with academic institutions.
The new centers, announced Aug. 3, are part of a larger plan outlined by Intel Labs executives in January to invest $100 million to create Intel Science and Technology Centers-or ISTCs-headquartered at various universities throughout 2011, focusing on a wide range of areas. Both will be housed at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa., with which Intel already has a close relationship.
Stanford University was the first site for such a center, with a focus on visual computing. In June, Intel Labs opened a second one, focusing on secure computing, at the University of California-Berkeley.
"These new ISTCs are expected to open amazing possibilities," Intel CTO Justin Rattner said in a statement. "Imagine, for example, future cars equipped with embedded sensors and microprocessors to constantly collect and analyze traffic and weather data. That information could be shared and analyzed in the cloud so that drivers could be provided with suggestions for quicker and safer routes."
The goal of the centers is to collaborate with the schools to create technological advances that can be used, not only by Intel, but others throughout the industry. The ISTCs use open IP models, and the research results will become publically available through technical publications and open-source software releases, according to Intel officials.
The research done at the centers will have wide appeal, according to Roger Kay, principal analyst for Endpoint Technologies Associates.
"Like fireworks on the 4th of July, project after project has gone up, each addressing a potentially high-value aspect of future computing," Kay wrote in an Aug. 3 blog posting for Forbes.com. "Whatever goodness these joint efforts yield will be donated to the public domain so that others may harvest some of the benefits. And if that degree of openness isn't enough, Intel is inviting the public to send in its own proposals for research to explore possibly productive spheres in information technology."
Intel has created a Website where people can submit their proposals.
The cloud computing center-or ISTC-CC-is part of Intel's larger Cloud 2015 initiative, which is designed to push innovation to enable businesses and consumers to share data security across public and private clouds. The researchers-not only from Intel and Carnegie Mellon, but also the Georgia Institute of Technology, UC-Berkeley and Princeton-will explore such key cloud technologies as built-in application optimization, better support of online big data analytics, and extending the cloud to the network edge and client devices, the chip maker said.
"In the future, these capabilities could enable a digital personal handler via a device wired into your glasses that sees what you see, to constantly pull data from the cloud and whisper information to you during the day-telling you who people are, where to buy an item you just saw, or how to adjust your plans when something new comes up," Intel officials said in a statement describing the center.
At the ISTC-EC-for embedded computing-researchers from Carnegie Mellon and Intel will be joined by others from Cornell, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State University, Georgia Tech and UC-Berkeley. Embedded computing is a growing area of interest to Intel, as intelligence is being added to a widening number of devices, from cars to appliances.
Intel officials said the key is to enable such everyday devices to collect data from sensors and online databases and analyze it and act on it. For example, they said, cars could be programmed to customize everything from radio stations to seat position when specific people are recognized. Data on everything from routes to retail to entertainment can be channeled into the car while on the road.
Intel is looking to get into such markets early on, and even its decision to make the research open benefits the chip maker by fueling a more active development environment, Endpoint's Kay said. But in the end, everyone will benefit.
"Consumers will get useful applications," he wrote. "Academic institutions will get research avenues, funding and methodology that will serve them well. Intel can participate, direct and derive fruit from research likely to yield future products. The investment community will get value creation. Governments will acquire incremental tax revenues. And other technology firms will have an open shot at high-value research-for free."