Intel, which has been providing processors for the so-called Internet of things for more than three decades before the trend was named, has appointed an executive to help run its newly created IoT Solutions Group.
Adam Burns (pictured), who serves as director of business development and product marketing for Intel's key IoT Gateway processor line, works under IoT Solutions Group Vice-President and General Manager Doug Davis on IoT-related products. Prior to his current position, Burns managed Intel's Energy and Industrial market segments for the Intelligent Systems Group and was a service business development manager in the Software and Services Group.
It's a pivotal new division for Intel, which has as much to gain from the growth of IoT as any company in the world. All those billions of devices that are soon to be connected all share at least two qualities to join the IoT: processors and connectivity.
"This is an evolution for a business we've been in for a long time," Burns told eWEEK. "We've been in the embedded processing business for over 30 years. The company is putting more focus on investment in the IoT space; we've added a new family of [processor] products called Quark [named for the element smaller than atoms] to get into some of the higher-volume, lower-processing power markets around embedded and IoT.
"We've combined that group with our Wind River Systems group. Wind River's operating systems are on over a billion devices in the IoT space," he continued.
Evolution of the Business Toward IoT
Burns said he wouldn't call his new position "a new job, but it's an evolution of the business to put more focus and centralization around IoT."
Wind River was a pioneer and market leader in embedded software for intelligent connected systems for years before Intel acquired the company for $884 million in June 2009. The wholly owned subsidiary is at the heart of Intel’s strategy to grow its processor and software presence outside the traditional PC and server market segments into embedded systems and mobile handheld devices.
Intel's IoT group had its own financial line item for the first time in the company's Q1 2014 earnings report. IoT brought about $2 billion of the company's $12.8 billion in revenue, which equated to 32 percent growth year over year, Burns said.
Embedded processors and software have come a long way, Burns said. "Vending machines can take change, dispense soda," he said. "Not much intelligence there. Now you're monitoring inventory and reporting in real time; there's smart digital signage and cameras on it [IoT]—those things are able to adapt advertising, depending upon who's looking at the machine. There are so many more use cases.
"There's a pretty big ramp in terms of horsepower and capabilities for the IoT. In the last year, we've seen the trend really take hold," he said.
The main products on which Burns is focusing now are Internet gateways built by partners such as Advantech, Adlink and Portwell that are loaded with functionality and powered by Intel processors. These small (about the size of a small candy box) devices with a number of different plug-ins (USB, High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI), VGA, etc.) enable control of all those inanimate devices used for myriad purposes, including sensors gathering data for business and personal use, security cameras, weather data collectors and retail asset-management monitors.
The UPS Use Case
An interesting IoT use case is one involving UPS package delivery service and its famous brown trucks. National Public Radio did a feature on it a few weeks ago. The thing upon which you sign your name when the UPS delivers you a package used to be a piece of carbon-layered paper. Now it's a computer that tells the driver everything he needs to know to get the job completed.
The computer gathers data all day long. In fact, each truck is full of sensors that record to the second when the driver opens or closes the door behind him, buckles his seat belt and when he starts the truck. It even records every time the driver has to back up (a practice UPS frowns upon), or retrace his or her steps.
All this data goes into that little black gateway box in the back of the truck. At the end of the day, the data is sent to UPS' data center in Paramus, N.J., where fast servers loaded with analytics apps sift through the data from other brown trucks across the country.
That's not the half of it. Hundreds of sensors measure everything that can possibly happen to the UPS truck and its driver. Talk about gathering big data; on any given day, UPS has more than 100,000 trucks (also 500 aircraft) doing their routes and piling up loads of data. This is all done in the name of efficiency, security and financially lean business practices.
UPS, a $54 billion publicly held company, delivers more than 15 million packages a day to more than 6.1 million customers in more than 220 countries and territories around the world.
Saving Small Amounts of Time Add Up to Big Money
It's the job of UPS Data Center Manager Jack Levis to think about how small amounts of time can save large amounts of money."The data are about as important as the package for us," Levis told NPR. "[Saving] just one minute per driver per day over the course of a year adds up to $14.5 million."
A driver interviewed by NPR said that a typical day for him used to be around 90 deliveries; now it's about 120, thanks to the new data-collecting system. That's the kind of economy of scale that enterprises use to lower costs and increase profits.
Those black-box gateways in the truck are the connectors of the real world to the Internet of Things. Without them, the IoT wouldn't exist, and Intel would be out of a large portion of its business.
It's Burns' job to make sure that Intel continues to be the major-league player it has always been in the embedded IT sector, and from all indications, the world's largest processor-maker appears willing and able to stay where it is atop the market-share charts.
Here's a short YouTube video of Burns explaining Intel's approach to providing future products for powering the IoT.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect a clarification in Adam Burns' title and tole at Intel.