Intel, the eco-technology innovator

From smart buildings to weather modeling, the technology giant is vying for a piece of the action.

Until recently, much of Intel's green strategy related to technology had to do with the company's quest to help decrease the power consumed by personal computers, servers and other devices built around its chips and components.

So far, it has done a pretty darn good job. Lorie Wigle, the general manager for the Intel Eco-Tech Office and president of the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, told me over a recent breakfast meeting that compared to the first billion personal computers that have made it into people's hands around the globe, the next 2 billion personal computer will use half the energy -- while delivering 17 times the computational capacity. Much of that, as you might expect, comes down to the energy efficiency improvements made possible through the fundamentals of Moore's Law.

But that's not enough for Wigle and Intel. Now, the company is stepping up its research and development related to "eco technology" that can aid businesses in their quest for sustainability. Intel's innovation will enter on technologies that support the tasks being taken on by sustainability teams, notably how to monitor, visualize and manage information that will make it easier for companies and individuals to care for the planet. According to Wigle, you will see Intel focus on eight main areas (many of them obviously inter-related):

  • Energy
  • Weather
  • Climate
  • Water
  • Air Quality
  • Extreme Events
  • Agriculture
  • Transportation

Here are two areas where the company has made some recent progress on pilot projects or partnerships, Wigle told me during our recent meeting.

1) Smart Buildings: Intel had the opportunity to become involved with a positive-energy proof-of-concept building project in France. Yes, that's right, a positive energy building that actually generates more electricity than it uses and offers certain local environmental benefits. Intel was central to the green building team's project to manage plug loads from computers and other office equipment, which is something that apparently most building management systems don't track. Wigle said Intel developed an application currently dubbed POEM (for Personal Office Energy Manager) in order to add in that quest. Basically, the idea is to endow IT equipment with sensor capabilities. Ultimately, Wigle believes that every device -- including electric vehicles, notebook computers, smartphones or anything with intelligence and the ability to connect -- can become part of the sensor network that informs smarter decisions about resource consumptions. Indeed, why not?

2) Weather Modeling: Intel plans to collaborate with the National Center for Atmospheric Research on work related to better weather predictions -- especially related to extreme events such as tornados or flash floods -- and climate modeling. In particular, you will see Intel contribute the Many Integrated Core (MIC) architecture toward projects that improve the availability and accuracy of information and that enable municipal governments to plan and respond to potential events.

As the convergence of smart building, smart grid and information technologies continues, it is only logical that Intel seek to claim a piece of this market. Clearly, the company is seeking to stake its claim more loudly in the months to come.

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