Intel’s Philip Moynagh: ‘Our world today will be unrecognisable in 10 years’

24 Mar 2014

The general manager in charge of Intel’s Quark platform Philip Moynagh says the world heralded by the internet of things (IoT) will be one that will see vast revolutions occur in everything from medicine and transport to farming and manufacturing.

Last October on a sunny afternoon in Rome at the international Maker’s Faire Moynagh, a former Fab manager and now the leader of a 70-strong skunkworks team at Intel focused on the Internet of Things, revealed a fully working Galileo dev board powered by a Quark X1000 processor.

Embossed on the device were the words ‘Designed in Ireland’, a massive statement if any that Ireland has every intention of riding the IoT wave.

It’s the scale of that opportunity that we need to get our heads around, Moynagh explains.

“The combination of computing, connectivity, and the internet has grown the world’s digital economy from zero to tens of trillions of euro in only a couple of decades. Everywhere we look we see laptops, tablets and phones connecting people to one another and connecting people to the internet. How we access information, goods and one another has been transformed. It’s a personal and business revolution for sure.

“But what if I told you we’ve only just begun? The reality is that all we’ve done so far is use screens to connect people to people and to connect people to data. The real revolution is happening now as we connect ‘all things to the internet’ and ‘all things to one another.’

“For all the wonder of the digital economy (and I’ve spent my career in it), we don’t live in screens. We live in the physical world of things. We sleep in beds, eat food, drive cars, work in buildings, socialise in cities. And it’s that physical world of ‘Things’ that is starting to be transformed. That’s the Internet of Things. It’s the application of Compute, Connect and Internet to all Things. And our world today will be unrecognisable in 10 years.”

The best medicine

One sector that looks set to be transformed will be healthcare. “Gathering basic information like blood pressure requires a visit to a doctor to deliver one-off measurements. These will be replaced by small wearable blood pressure monitors that continuously measure and alert patient and doctor with any early warning signs.

“Consider the dramatic improvement in our health and wellbeing that will result from those of us with chronic health challenges moving out from hospitals and back to our homes with wearable technology that monitors pulse, temperature, blood glucose, movement, brain activity, and the likes. We’ll be happier and healthier. Our physicians and we will get the right early indication of when to engage the health system. And the effectiveness of the healthcare system will improve at the same time as its cost reduces.”

In terms of cars and transport Moynagh said that in the future all cars will talk to one another, to the road infrastructure and will monitor pedestrians to eliminate accidents, optimize traffic flows, reduce travel times, and minimise fuel consumption.  

Intelligent commerce

“Shops will become much more intelligent things. By watching weather forecasts and controlling the supply chain, shops will self-order sun-tan lotion or umbrellas. Knowing the date and learning from historical variations, shops will self-order more green t-shirts for St Patricks day, more Dublin shirts for upcoming football games.

“Seeing that one breakfast cereal is selling slowly and will hit shelf life limits in a week, shops will self adjust the selling price on the digital sign to a price that gets the sell rate is right, a benefit to both the consumer and the business.

“In manufacturing supply chains, high sales of a phone to end customers in Brazil will result in shops talking to distribution warehouses, which talk back to phone manufacturing factories, which talk further back to the makers of the chips and the plastics so that the supply chain responds by building what is actually in demand, not what we thought might sell.

“When shopping for a new version of a home appliance, only 50% of people re-choose the brand they have. Embedding compute in that appliance and connecting it to the internet will allow the home owner to have services like automatic ordering of detergent when needed. It will also allow the appliance manufacturer to understand what usage models or issues drive brand loyalty and allow them to build better appliances.

“In farming, soil monitors will engage watering systems to maintain optimum growing conditions. Devices on pregnant cattle will ensure that the farmer is present when needed. There is no area of our lives that will not be impacted.”

Moore’s Law

Moynagh pointed out that for a thing to be smart, it first needs compute built in. To talk to the internet and to other things, it needs wired or wireless connectivity. On top of this hardware sits software that allows manageability, enables data sharing and ensures security. And on top of that will sit services that connect things to things and things to people.

“Today’s IoT market is dominated by custom solutions in markets like transport and manufacturing. Aircraft engines contain computers that analyse and send engine health data to the airline company and the engine maker before and during flight. “Equipment in advanced factories contain compute that looks for early signs of equipment failure and sends that data to maintenance engineers. Shipping containers measure temperature, humidity, vibration and location and communicate that to the cargo owners.

“As Moore’s Law drives steadily smaller and more powerful computer chips, the price point at which compute can be incorporated into things drops. And as the wireless communications network continues its build out, better and more cost effective connectivity allows those things to be connected to one another and to the cloud.

“Amazon’s Kindle ebook is a great example of early mass application of a cost effective IoT solution, completely changing the business model for the search, sale and distribution of books. Expect a lot more of that,” Moynagh said.

The Economy of Things

For Ireland to benefit from the ‘internet of things’ Moynagh recommends investing in IoT fundamentals and applying IoT to the nation’s biggest problems and opportunities.

“With an unflinching focus on high return for our investment, we need to architect and implement IoT solutions that address our biggest challenges. We need outstanding cost-effective healthcare for an aging population. We need world class education for our kids and our adults. We need smart rooms in smart buildings in smart cities with smart transport delivering safer, healthier, energy efficient, productive living. We need to attract the best companies and we need to start and build the best companies in the world.

“As a nation, we are incredibly well positioned to make this happen. We’re a well educated and resilient people, outward looking but self reliant. We have a connectivity between government, education, citizen and business that has brought more foreign direct investment to Ireland than Brazil, Russia, India and China combined. We have a national brand that delivers well above its weight and visible, for example, in the worldwide celebrations of St Patrick’s day.

“Our relatively small scale gives us a nimbleness and flexibility that is becoming more and more important in a planet that is changing fast and needs to learn and deliver fast.

“The days of ‘the big beat the small’ are gone. It is ‘the fast that beat the slow.’ With focus and with appropriate leverage of our natural advantages, there is no reason that Ireland cannot be to the IoT revolution what California’s Silicon Valley has been to the computer and internet revolution.”

When a standard IoT infrastructure exists, Moynagh believes the innovation opportunities to deliver a better world become limited only by need and imagination.

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years