Embedded Chips to Drive Internet Adoption, Exec Says

Embedded chips will fuel the growth of the Internet in the future, making it available everywhere, an Intel executive said on Tuesday.

There will be an explosion in Internet use, with 15 billion connected devices by 2015, said Pat Gelsinger, senior vice president at Intel, during a keynote at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco.

Systems connected to the Internet will include infotainment systems in cars, navigation devices and hardware associated with public places, like health networks and traffic systems.

These devices will be fueled by low-power embedded chips, Gelsinger said.

Intel wants to take advantage of that market opportunity by delivering such chips. The company does not have a huge presence in the space, but it hopes to make its presence felt through new designs and products.

The company said it is developing low-power embedded chips based on the Atom architecture for devices like mobile phones, set-top boxes and ATMs. In July it also announced new system-on-chips (SOC), targeted at devices ranging from consumer electronics to set-top boxes.

Intel develops Atom chips for devices including netbooks, which are low-cost PCs used for basic applications like e-mail and surfing the Internet. It is also working on a new platform code-named Moorestown, which includes an SOC code-named Lincroft as well as a graphics, video and memory controller on a single chip. Moorestown is due for release in 2009 or 2010.

However, a set of challenges needs to be overcome in terms of reliability, power consumption and life of those chips, Gelsinger said. Intel is working to shrink chips and reduce power consumption on its SOCs.

The use of the x86 architecture in embedded systems could encourage more developers to build software for the specialized chips, Gelsinger said. There already are a large number of programmers developing software for Intel-based systems.

A BMW concept car was demonstrated on-stage with Atom-based processors running navigation and infotainment systems during the keynote. The car can select applications -- like social-networking software -- from a bigger pool of applications developed in the x86 software ecosystem to expand the car's functionality.

Intel has 700 design engagements for its embedded chips under way, but it enters the embedded market as a challenger, not incumbent. Arm is the market leader in the mobile space.

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