Intel targets IoT with new Quark chips and free cloud OS

Intel says developers can start building apps within 10 minutes with the new products

Brian Krzanich on stage
Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel, speaks in San Francisco on Nov. 3, 2015. Credit: James Niccolai

Intel has released new processors and software as part of its latest push to capitalize on the nascent Internet of Things market.

The products include new low-power Quark chips for IoT devices, and software and cloud services from Intel’s Wind River subsidiary, which aim to make it easier for companies to connect devices and upload the data they produce for analysis.

Intel is one of dozens of companies trying to capitalize on the potentially vast market for IoT products and services. Chip design company ARM, one of its biggest rivals, is expected to make its own IoT announcements at its annual conference next week.

The promise of IoT for businesses is that they can connect virtually anything in their organization -- from factory machine tools to office lights to goods in the supply chain -- to make their operations more efficient. But getting smarts into those end devices, connecting them to the cloud and making use of the data is complex. So Intel pulled together a set of technologies, including some from partners, to help companies get started.

Most of its senior executives were on hand to present the new products at an event in San Francisco Tuesday, a sign of how much importance Intel attaches to IoT.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich James Niccolai

CEO Brian Krzanich at Intel's IoT event Tuesday

As an example of what IoT can do, CEO Brian Krzanich pointed to a proof of concept Intel did with Levi Strauss at a store in San Francisco. It put RFID tags in all Levi products in the store and fed the data collected back into the cloud. Store managers can now see exactly how much stock they have, and also locate items put back on the wrong shelves.

Krzanich wouldn’t say how much Levi might have saved, but he pointed to research saying that a 3% improvement in inventory accuracy usually translate into a 1% increase in sales, partly because stores are less likely to run out of stock.

Whether Intel can turn those pilot projects into a substantial business remains to be seen, but it hopes the new products and services will further its efforts.

It’s Wind River subsidiary released two open-source operating systems for developers building IoT devices. Rocket is a “tiny-footprint” OS that runs on 32-bit microcontrollers, while Pulsar Linux is a more capable OS that runs on 32-bit microcontrollers up to 64-bit CPUs.

Wind River also released a set of cloud services under the Helix brand, including a hosted application development environment, and a service for managing devices and their data. Intel also released development tools for building IoT applications, and an open source project called the Trusted Analytics Platform, is a suite of open source tools for analyzing data.

Intel's Diane Bryant James Niccolai

Diane Bryant, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Data center group, introduces the Trusted Analytics Platform

The new chips include the Quark SE SoC (system on chip), due to ship in the first half of next year, and two microcontrollers, the D1000, which went on sale Tuesday, and the D2000, which will ship by the end of the year. The SOC has a pattern matching engine built into the chip. It means it can be programmed to detect certain environmental conditions and then send that data back for analysis when needed. So when a machine part vibrates at a certain frequency, for instance, it can send out an alert that it might need to be inspected.