At a briefing for press and analysts this week, Intel technical marketing manager Steve Cutler listed 10 technologies the company expects to become mainstream within the next decade.
1. New classes of portable device with 10 times the battery
A new circuit technology promises to enable chips to operate as low as 300 millivolts, significantly below the 1 volt level at which normal transistors fully turn on. Intel said it already has a sample circuit that includes a 4-way SIMD [single instruction multiple data] vector processing accelerator that can run at 2.8GHz at standard voltage, but consumes just 270 microwatts when run at 300 millivolts. At the moment, the technology is "just a proof point that we can operate these devices at such low power ranges", Cutler said.
2. Interconnects based on low-cost silicon photonics
Optical connections will replace copper wires between chips, around the computer chassis, and beyond. Because optical connections can carry high bandwidth signals, any current PC signal can be carried down such a connection, which could replace USB ports, according to Intel. While current optical fibres operate at a maximum 40Gbit/s, many optical signals can also be multiplexed down the same fibre to deliver "terabit networks", according to Cutler.
3. Software-based rendering will replace today's dedicated graphics
processing units (GPUs)
Many-core chips such as Intel's forthcoming Larrabee will be able to outperform today's GPU chips and offer greater flexibility, the company believes, as they can use software rather than hard-coded algorithms for greater flexibility to process complex visual effects such as shadow mapping and ray tracing.
4. Virtual memory technology will drive greater realism in
More realistic physics to represent the way moving objects behave in the real world will be made easier if the CPU and GPU can share memory more effectively. Virtualised memory will let the two share complex data structures so that computation tasks can be split between the two. "This lets you mimic real life so much better," Cutler said.
5. Malware will no longer be a threat thanks to hardware
Intel believes that techniques such as its own Trusted Execution Technology (TXT), which offers protected memory spaces for applications, can be extended so that malicious software will not be able to infect other applications or access sensitive information. Cutler said Intel is working on extensions to this technology, but that more work is needed to take advantage of what is already there.
6. Personal internet devices will anticipate your needs
Devices such as smartphones already have access to a lot of information about users, such as their diary and location via GPS, and Intel believes they will be able to act on this more intelligently in future. "Wouldn’t it be good if your phone could warn you that you need to hurry up to get to that meeting you have booked?" said Cutler.
7. Internet devices will automatically share resources
The promise of electronic devices able to quickly and easily share data is nothing new, and Intel trots this one out again for the coming decade. With high bandwidth wireless interfaces becoming commonplace in consumer electronics, users should be able to walk into a room and have the photos on their digital camera display on the 42in TV in the corner. Intel foresees that some form of GUI will let users visually link devices, which it terms "composable computing" . "You'll use a graphical editor to say 'I want this device to make use of this feature in this device'," said Cutler.
8. Next generation TV
TV will be ubiquitous, in that users will be able to get it wherever they are, on any device they choose, according to Intel. But it will be more personalised, presenting users with a list of what they prefer to watch, and more informative. Users will be able to select an athlete while watching a race and bring up biographical information, or see statistics on the horses taking part in a race.
9. 3D worlds will become seamlessly connected
While online worlds such as Second Life and World of Warcraft are self-contained, Intel believes these will become more interconnected in future. Cutler gave the example of a company like Amazon establishing a 3D store with shopping aisles and book shelves that can be entered via virtual worlds such as Second Life, while businesses will make more use of online meeting spaces.
10. A revolution in the way wireless spectrum is managed
This is a favourite hobby horse of Intel's. The number of devices using wireless communications is growing, but much of the available radio spectrum is already allocated, and even worse, the available free bandwidth is fragmented and varies from region to region. "We have the technology now to make one radio that can configure itself for whatever you need. The problem is the available spectrum. It’s all allocated, but a lot is not being used for anything," said Cutler. He said that Intel is pushing to free up spectrum for people to use, and that we “need to use the spectrum more efficiently”.
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