Intel reveals its vision for mobile phone evolution

Intel has set its technicians working on a new initiative that it hopes will get mobile devices piggybacking on other devices its user may come across, as well as making use of the increasing number of sensors — such as cameras and GPS — within the device itself.

Intel has set its technicians working on a new initiative that it hopes will get mobile devices piggybacking on other devices its user may come across, as well as making use of the increasing number of sensors — such as cameras and GPS — within the device itself.

The terribly-named Carry Small Live Large plan is one of the company's "four or five big bets" for upcoming technology trends, with engineers working on new methods to use the applications available on mobile phones in ways that aren't dependent on the form factor of the device itself.

"Devices come near a lot of other electronic devices ... they don't talk to one another, don't interact that much. [Mobile phones'] very limited capability isn't really a good match for what people want to do," Kevin Kahn, director of Intel's Communications Technology Lab, said.

According to Kahn, speaking yesterday at the Intel Developer Forum in Shanghai, mobiles should be taking advantage of the devices around them: for example, detecting whenever a more appropriate display is in range, from a projector to the screen in the back of an aircraft seat.

Engineers at Intel's Research Labs are experimenting with different methods of enabling communication between displays and mobiles, including remote graphics rendering and frame buffer compression. "They're complementary approaches," Kahn added.

Researchers are also looking at the architectural challenges of multi-radio devices — phones that can connect to GPS, 3G, 2G, Wi-Fi, WiMax, Bluetooth, UWB and any number of other wireless standards — with a view to ultimately combining all the radio components into one single element to cut the space silicon takes up within the device and shrink mobile form factors.

However, for this to be commercially viable, it will necessitate 32-nanometre architectures, which Intel says will begin production in 2009.

The Carry Small Live Large scheme is also looking at ways to utilise the data generated by the range of sensors included within mobile devices. According to Kahn, one of the oldest mobile sensors — the camera — has some of the greatest potential.

"That sensor could take a look at a barcode and give you information on the product, it could be connected to a database that you're looking at as a tourist", Kahn said. For example, by allowing the user to take a picture of a building in a foreign city, and using location information from the phone's GPS combined with the image taken by the camera-phone to find the building on a database and then deliver data on it back to the user's phone.

Intel is not alone in believing the camera-phone could be exploited further for search. Nokia's labs has already created a prototype search tool that resembles Intel's vision, which uses geo-tagging information and image recognition to provide data on popular landmarks. Last month, Vodafone launched Otello, a search engine which works by analysing camera-phone pictures rather than text input.

Jo Best travelled to Shanghai as a guest of Intel.

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