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IDF 2012 Day 3 Keynote: Digital Wireless Radio, Vein Recognition, WiGig Signals

Today at IDF 2012, Intel's Justin Rattner took to the stage to give the final keynote, a talk entitled "Connecting to the Future," and dedicated to upcoming technologies and concepts. In a presentation that lasted nearly an hour and a half, the chief technology officer talked about the future of wireless connectivity, demonstrating such upcoming technologies as wireless digital radio, WiGig high-speed wireless and client-based authentication which signs you into all your accounts with the wave of a hand as it detects the veins in your fingers.

Before Rattner took the stage, Intel showed a cute video about kids at summer camp who send videos home to their parents from smartphones, notebooks and tablets. The kids were even shown developing their own Wi-Fi towers and meeting with VCs. Apparently, the message was that today even kids take advantage of the latest technology.

Justin Rattner then took the stage wearing a pair of Necomimi mind-controlled cat's ears. After describing and then removing the cat's ears, Rattner thanked the crowd for coming and described his method for choosing topics for his forward-looking keynotes. "The topics kind of choose me," he said saying that the topic of today's keynote is something he's talked about for three years. He told the audience he has a rule that he only speaks about technologies he can demo.

Digital Wireless Radio

He then talked about connected computing, saying that everyone expects all their devices to be able to reach the Internet. He said his presentation will focus a lot on wireless communication. He then said that Intel's mission in wireless began 10 years ago and showed a video of a presentation from 2002's IDF where the presenter predicted that all devices would have some kind of "wireless digital radio" built-in to handle all of their wireless signals.

Rattner talked about old-school radios which use analog, but said that digital technology has really surpassed analog technology in most areas except in radio. "The trouble with analog is that it doesn't scale with the technology," he said, nothing that analog designs cannot shrink as well as digital ones. He then talked about how mathematical equations and new technology can improve radio signals (by radio, he means Wi-Fi radio and other data signals not FM or AM radio).

He then brought out Yorgos Palaskas of Intel's Radio Integration Labs to talk about radio technology. Palaskas talked about how analog receivers and transmitters work. The engineers said that Intel decided to create its own digital radio chip and explained some of the very technical challenges involved.

Palaskas then announced that Intel has developed its own "Moore's Law Radio" that's built on 32nm technology, operates at 40-MHz and has comparable power efficiency to analog solutions. He then showed a demo of one computer with a digital radio streaming a video to another computer with a digital radio.

Rattner then said that "Rosepoint" is the code name for an experimenal 32nm SoC that inclues the WiFi transceiver and two Atom cores on the same die., something that wasn't possible with analog radios.

WiGig High-Speed Transfers

Rattner then talked about the hassle of having to carry so many wires to use your devices and showed a video about how useful WiGig technology, which allows you to transfer data wirelessly at several Gigabits per second. He then invited Ali Sadri of the Wireless Gigabit Alliance on stage to talk about the status of WiGig today.

Sadri talked about the vision of WiGig since the alliance was founded in 2009. The goal, he said, is to allow wireless connections that are infinitely faster than Wi-Fi so you can send things like video very quickly. He explained that WiGig operates at 60Mhz so as not to bump up against the 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz frequencies that WiFi uses today.

He then brought on a demo helped who, after a short delay, showed how a notebook with WiGig could connect wirelessly to an external hard drive and dual HD monitors via WiGig and stream an HD video through the notebook to the monitors, all without wires.

Battery Life and Power Savings

Rattner then talked about the importance of offering both convenience and long battery life to users at the same time, without compromise. He described's Intel's existing Smart Connect technology which downloads important social media and messaging updates even when the notebook is asleep. 

He then brought out Intel Chief Engineer Charlie Tai to talk about where Intel goes after Smart Connect. Tai then demoed a new technology called "Spring Meadow," which promises to reduce power consumption when your notebook download updates while idling. By optimizing the data downloaded at the network interface level, an Ultrabook can use half the CPU power even as Twitter feeds and photos are downloaded in the background while a user reads a web page in the foreground.

Video Aware Wireless Networks

Rattner then talked about how mobile and vidoe traffic are exploding, showing the increase in mobile video viewing. He then invited Chris Neisinger of Verizon and Jeff Foerster of Intel labs to talk about Video Aware Wireless Networks (VAWN). Neisinger said that Verizon is trying to find ways to support this level of demand while Foerster said Intel is looking at ways to make the infrastructure more efficient. 

Neisinger then said that network providers need better ways to measure video quality on the fly while Foerster said that Intel has done a lot of studies where it asked users about how they view video quality. Foerster then talked about a study where his researchers had a limited 10 Mbps pipe and had to stream to 10 devices at once. Since each user got only 1 Mbps of bandwidth, many of the users were unhappy. However, with a VAWN connection, the bandwidth is used more efficiently to provide each of the users with a quality stream that looks smooth on whatever device they use.


Rattner than talked about the tension between ease of use and increased security, saying that a lot of people turn off antivirus scanners to improve performance and he believes it doesn't have to be that way. He then called up Sridhar Iyendar who talked about how users often use weak passwords and the same password eveywhere because it's hard to remember them. Iyendar said biometric security is the answer.

He said that Intel has a concept called "Client-Based Authentication Technology" that uses biometric technology on the client end and then sends an authentication out to all of your services. In a demo, an Intel rep waved his hand in front of a palm vein detector on a tablet and watched as it logged him into Windows 7. Once he was logged in, he was able to go to his bank site and see his account without needing to log in again as the tablet had already notified the bank website that he was authenticated. When the rep put his tablet down and walked away, its accelerometer knew it was no longer being held and locked Windows. He then picked it up again, waved his hand in front of the sensor and Windows unlocked again.

Rattner and Iyendar said this authentication technology is coming soon, because no new silicon is needed to make it happen.

Wireless Infrastructure

Rattner then showed a video about the challenges wireless network providers face in building out their infrastructures.  He reminded the audience that last year Intel showed that it was possible to replace expensive mobile network base stations with standard PC servers. He then invited Dr. Chih Lin from China Mobile, China's largest carrier, on stage to talk about how her company is working with Intel to build out its infrastructure more efficiently. She said that her company has more than a million base stations.

Lin said that her company is planning to deploy 20,000 LTE base stations by end of this year and over 400,000 by 2014. She said that working with Intel Labs, China Mobile will able to make its base stations more power efficient and less expensive. She talked about how Intel's Cloud Radio Access Network (C-RAN) project will help them replace their proprietary base station hardware  with open platforms and a software stack. Rattner and  Lin then called Sunny, a demo rep up, to show how China Mobile is able to scale its base stations using Intel's technology.

Rattner than wrapped up his presentation by summarizing the presentations he gave over the past hour and a half and thanking the audience.