Intel Developer Forum: the context-aware app cometh

Steve Brown, Intel chief evangelist and futurist kicked off this San Francisco located event this year with what is now (for all vendors) known as the “day zero” pre-show briefing.

The company is using this year’s gathering of programmers and other IT pros to explain where its vision of future devices and applications usage is headed from both a hardware (device), component (processor and other central architectural elements) and software (applications) perspective.

So what of the future?

Brown explained that when we look at what computing can do for us next, we must look to how contextually-aware personally tailored applications will be developed.

A human genome takes up about a petabyte of data… if we can have all of this information at our fingertips, then there is a huge possibility to change the future of medicine and start to tailor the medicine prescribed to each individual person.

IDF image 1.JPG

Lama Nachman, principal engineer of Intel Lab spoke on the subject of context awareness.

Nacham Hates ‘micro-management’ and the fact that she has to keep to configuring her favourite apps whenever she travels.

Devices and, perhaps more crucially applications, need to become more context aware she said.

“Communications and alerts need to become more than some unified equal layer of data… I want to know the difference between information contained in a call or alert that is simply a friend wanting to chat and one that is going to tell me my house is burning down. Devices should know whether they are being used in noisy environments … maybe due to sound sensors… maybe due to geo-location sensors, or both.”

Ambient context awareness

Continuing the Intel futurist train of thought, next up was Ravi Iyer, director and senior principal engineer Intel Labs.

Iyer’s view of contextual applications are housed on devices that are either “on you, or around you” and that understand context.

Today you might have a phone, set of keys with electronic key fob, maybe even a headset/microphone. Even as we stand today we find some of these items bulky and we would like to reduce the size (and usually also increase the power) of these things in the future.

INTEL’S GOSPEL: Ultra-low power and ultra-low cost should be a given for future devices and applications and these units should employ ambient environment context awareness intelligence.

This soon-to-be-experienced future could feature new input mechanisms — not just through UIs and or via speech, but perhaps by simply moving the device or some as yet undeveloped (but still perhaps quite obvious) means such as shaking via an accelerometer.

The device will need to work on ultra low power .. operating at microwatts or milliwatts as opposed to watts (so that battery life lasts for perhaps a week) if it is (for example) a wearable health-type device that just needs to come to life for a second, take your blood pressure or heart rate etc. – and then go back to sleep.

Energy harvesting

Technologies including NFC and also “energy harvesting” come into play here.

Brian David Johnson, futurist and evangelist — talked on the subject of 2020 when the computer approaches zero (in terms of size), but also zero in terms of cost and zero in terms of power consumption such that — these devices can start to pick up “ambient energy” and this is everything from solar, to kinetic, to radio wave energy that could be tapped into and others.

IDF image 2.JPG

A brief history of devices according to Intel







Ubiquitous computing devices (in the Internet of Things and wearable technology etc.)

Lessons from Copernicus

Dr Tony Salvador rounded out this discussion in his position as director and senior principal engineer for Intel Labs.

Salvador’s story hinged around the fact that we used to believe that the view of the sky above us was all that we could see. But when Copernicus started looking at the sky in around 1541 AD, he started thinking about the construction of a far bigger system … the first images of the heavens were based upon belief (belief based data if you like) but Copernicus moved us on to data driven belief… such that a full heliocentric view of the solar system was constructed…

… and this is an over-riding theme for the way we will move to use data in the future i.e. context-based data related to what is actually around us (and the process of how we work with it) will shape our world in the next decade.