If you’ve been dismissing the Internet of Things (IoT) as just the latest marketing buzzword being embraced by fringe players in the tech industry, you’ve got another thing coming.
Intel, the semiconductor giant that still supplies the lion’s share of computer chips powering servers and PCs around the world, on Tuesday introduced what it’s calling the Intel IoT Platform—a streamlined, one-stop foundation for future hardware systems leveraging x86-based processing power, a cloud computing infrastructure, and software tailored to run on it.
It’s a heady move for Intel as 2014 comes to a close. Competing processor architectures like ARM, the leader in mobile device computing, are pushing upwards and outwards from low-power, client-centric applications into complex computing spaces long dominated by x86. Intel, the proverbial sleeping giant, has awoken to find that it is no longer the master of all it surveys and is once again striving to shape a more wide-open future to its advantage.
But the tricks that worked so well in the past won’t necessarily bear fruit for Intel in the days ahead.
The new Intel IoT Platform doesn’t stress the superiority of the x86 architecture or the advantages conferred by the chip giant’s advanced process technology propelled by its stewardship of Moore’s Law. Though as the company’s Quark product line matures, we can surely expect those arguments to be made.
Instead, Intel is now pushing its cloud connectivity portfolio, stressing the integration of the Wind River Edge Management System in the new IoT platform to “facilitate device configuration, file transfers, data capture, and rules-based data analysis and response.”
Tying in top-of-the-line connection capabilities and mature software development building blocks to its advanced processing stack “enables customers to quickly build industry-specific IoT solutions and integrate disparate enterprise IT systems, utilizing API management,” Intel said at a demo event in San Francisco.
“With this platform we are continuing to expand our IoT product family beyond silicon with enhancements to our pre-integrated solutions that make IoT more accessible to solution providers,” Doug Davis, vice president and general manager of Intel’s Internet of Things Group, said in a statement. “IoT is a rapidly growing market but faces scalability hurdles. By simplifying the development process and making it easier to deploy new solutions that address market needs, we can help accelerate innovation.”
The upshot here is that Intel is pitting the consistency and reliability generated by its power position in the semiconductor market against the volatile, feast-or-famine prospect of the disparate players building IoT solutions based on ARM or other instruction sets, including their own proprietary processing architectures.
The argument against Intel’s appeal is that it will likely be more monolithic than the free-wheeling alternative ecosystem, less able to adapt and quickly move in to take advantage of currently unknown IoT growth areas that could crop up in the months and years ahead.
Intel’s ambition is nothing less than to set the standard and the market for what computing looks like over the next decade and more, defining the simplest systems to the most complex. That won’t be an easy triumph to secure, but the chip giant’s latest game plan for winning the battle should certainly put the completion on notice.