Intel's IoT vision sees far more than chips

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Intel is bringing all its assets to bear on the Internet of Things, a hot topic for nearly all IT vendors but one that’s especially critical to big chip makers.

While Intel would like to see its low-power chips used in sensors, wearables and other hardware that will ship in huge numbers if the industry’s IoT dreams come true, it also has software, security and infrastructure to add to the mix. In the short run, those may matter more than the silicon itself.

At an event in San Francisco on Tuesday, the company announced what it calls the Intel IoT Platform, a combination of hardware, software and partnerships designed to help its customers quickly churn out complete systems. Intel also introduced its latest IoT gateway design, plus security and management capabilities that will be part of that platform.

“It really is an end to end play,” said Doug Fisher, vice president and general manager of the Intel Software and Services Group.

A key part of Intel’s strategy for IoT is its gateway reference designs, which can collect data from sensors and other IoT devices at the edge of a network and process and translate that data. The gateways can even turn machines that have never been networked into connected devices, translating older proprietary protocols into usable streams of data on IP (Internet Protocol) networks.

On Tuesday, Intel introduced the Wind River Edge Management System, a technology stack for cloud-based control of IoT operations. It also rolled out a new generation of the Intel IoT Gateway with the Wind River software, which will allow enterprises to quickly deploy gateways and manage them for as long as they are in use.

The company also laid out a list of partners for building and deploying IoT systems in various industries. Those partners include Accenture, Capgemini, SAP, Dell and Japan’s NTT Data.

While Intel may someday ship millions more chips thanks to IoT, depending on how it fares against rivals using the ARM architecture, its end-to-end set of technologies doesn’t really exclude chips from other vendors, Gartner analyst Mark Hung said. In other words, Intel’s data center and security assets can play a role in deployments where sensors and other components may come from elsewhere. In the short term, in fact, software and security may be Intel’s biggest IoT plays when it comes to bringing in revenue, he said.

Enterprises may be interested in single-vendor, end-to-end IoT solutions for now, because they want to get the ball rolling on IoT, Hung said. But in the long run, they’ll look for combinations of “best of breed” components, a strategy that’s not feasible yet because standards haven’t solidified enough to ensure all the parts will work together, he said.

Intel’s McAfee security business introduced Enhanced Security for Intel IoT Gateways, a pre-validated solution to enhance the security of the gateways. And to serve industries that are linking older equipment to the Internet for the first time, the company is working with Siemens to add support for industrial protocols to its firewall technology.

There’s a window of two to five years to implement security in IoT, said Lorie Wigle, Intel’s vice president of IoT Security Solutions.

“It’s really critical that we build security in, particularly when we look at industrial IoT. Some of these systems may be in place for decades, so if we miss this window of opportunity, it is a big, big miss,” Wigle said.

Intel’s taking one security technology it’s developed for its own products, called EPID (Enhanced Privacy Identity), and promoting it to other silicon vendors.

EPID separates a device’s ability to prove that it’s a certain class of device from its ability to prove that it’s a unique, specific device. Each device has its own key, but there’s a single key on the other side used to validate them. One place that may be useful is in vehicles, where a car could be authorized to use shared infrastructure such as tollbooths and smart traffic lights without identifying itself as your car in particular, Wigle said. That would keep the entities that run those systems from being able to track you wherever you drive.

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