Intel is broadening its capabilities in such critical growth markets as autonomous vehicles and the Internet of things with the acquisition of Itseez, a small company with an expertise in computer vision technology.
Intel announced the deal May 26, with Doug Davis, senior vice president and general manager of the chip maker's Internet of Things Group (IoTG), saying that the Itseez technology will play a key role in a range of areas, particularly driverless cars. For vehicles to be truly autonomous, they will have to be able to not only "see" images via sensors all around their environments, but process, analyze and understand those images to make informed decisions and take actions.
"Solutions will need to seamlessly deliver a combination of compute, connectivity, security, machine learning, human machine interfaces and functional safety," Davis wrote in a post on the company blog. "To win in automotive today and help deliver its exciting future, Intel is adding new capabilities to our automotive portfolio like functional safety and over-the-air software management. Another key requirement for self-driving cars is the ability to see and accurately interpret surroundings. One of the technologies necessary to support this capability is computer vision."
No financial details about the deal were released.
Intel's acquisition of Itseez is the latest recent move by a chip maker to expand its capabilities in the fast-growing autonomous vehicle market. Earlier this month, NXP Semiconductors—leveraging the technologies inherited when it bought Freescale Semiconductor for $12 billion last year—unveiled a driverless vehicle platform that includes not only the NXP-powered sensors that gather the data but also the Bluebox compute engine that collects the data and analyzes it.
Around the same time, Mobileye and STMicroelectronics announced they were working on the next generation of Mobileye's chip technology—EyeQ5—that they said will be used as the central processor for self-driving cars, collecting and fusing the data generated by the various sensors for everything from speed and motion to radar, Lidar and cameras. Mobileye officials said they expect to take advantage of its capabilities around computer vision in vehicles in developing EyeQ5.
Other chip makers, such as Nvidia and ARM, also are taking aim at the autonomous vehicle space. Boston Consulting Group analysts are forecasting the market for partially and fully autonomous vehicles to hit $42 billion in 2025, and about $77 billion in 2035. ABI Research analysts in April said that the advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) space will increase from $11 billion this year to $132 billion by 2026.
Driverless vehicles and the Internet of things (IoT) are key growth areas for Intel as officials push to transform it from a company that makes chips for the contracting global PC space to one that is central in the emerging cloud and IoT markets. Itseez makes products not only for ADAS systems, but also for face detection and recognition, 3D scanning and the acceleration of computer-vision products using the open-source OpenCV specification.
Intel's Davis said the computer vision technology from Itseez will be important not only in autonomous cars, but also in such areas as security systems, medical imaging and industrial inspections. Computer vision also is a key component in the evolution of the IoT, he said. Already, everyday systems and devices are becoming smarter and connecting to the cloud, all of which are driving new revenue streams, services and cost savings.
The third phase of development after making things smarter and more connected "is just emerging when devices will require constant connectivity and will need the intelligence to make real-time decisions based on their surroundings," Davis wrote. "This is the 'autonomous era,' and machine learning and computer vision will become critical for all kinds of machines—cars among them."
He said that Americans spend about 75 billion hours a year driving, and noted that Morgan Stanley analysts believe autonomous vehicles will bring $507 billion in productivity gains every year. Davis said Itseez technology already can be found in such products as cars and security systems, and also contributes to such standards initiatives as OpenCV and OpenVX. Intel will increase its contributions to these efforts, he said.