Industry giant Intel is embracing the Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable tech in an effort to make its technology ubiquitous.
Matthew Jarvis caught up with Intel VP and EMEA GM Christian Morales (pictured) and channel sales manager Matthew Birch to see what the future holds for the expanding chip maker…
What would you say Intel’s primary focus is now, given the expansion into so many new markets?
Christian Morales: If you look at the market, you have data centres at the top, followed by PCs, tablets and smartphones.
In the high-end of the Internet of Things market, we have Xeon, then we have Core i3, i5 and i7, then Pentium, then Atom and then we have Quark. Quark allows us to address the area of the market which could be something as simple as a sensor. Then we can connect those devices to Atom, before it goes to the big data centres of a city on Xeon and the orders are relayed back to Quark.
This allows us to address any kind of complexity in the marketplace – and is how we see 50 billion devices connected by 2020.
You’ve made a lot of investments in the wearable tech sector recently. How do you feel about the current state of that market?
CM: That’s the $50 billion question. Most of the firms we talk to are taking note of the wearable tech market. Everybody around is looking at how they’re going to bring you the information you need to have, in the form you want to have it.
There are so many ideas going on that what we’re going to see in the next two to three years is going be like a jungle and bloom everywhere.
With your moves into those markets, would you say you’re moving away from the desktop PC sector?
CM: If you look at the statistics for desktops, desktops are slightly down, but within desktops you have all-in-ones, which are growing double digits; you have enthusiast, which is growing double digits, and you have the newly introduced NUCs.
You’re going to see tremendous innovation in the PC segment – there’s so much going on in the ecosystem, and if there is one segment that is innovating the fastest right now, it is the PC segment. On desktops and all-in-ones, you will continue to see incredible innovations. For enthusiasts and NUC, we have loads that we’re going to introduce. There’s a lot of innovation going on there.
Matthew Birch: We’re certainly not changing our focus, but we will continue to develop new products and new technology and solutions and then identify which of our partners in the channel to work with in order to take them to market.
We’ve got some great key partners in the enthusiast space and we’re seeing great demand at the moment – during the second half of the year I think we’re going to see that really take off.
However, the days of just a standard tower – although you’d be surprised just how many still do ship into a B2B space – are ending.
Consumers don’t want a 20-litre box or anything like that – they want something different, and they want something that is either nice to look at or conveniently hidden.
Do you see IoT as a sector with more prospects for enterprise implementation than consumer use?
CM: IoT will help avoid the big issues we have in the world – sustainable energy, sustainable food and a sustainable environment.
You can go and see most of the activities we conduct, and say we can be trained and educated to be more sustainable, but we need automatism behind it – otherwise it won’t work.
You co-founded the Internet of Things Consortium – what is the importance of such a group?
CM: With the Internet of Things Consortium, we are working with several companies to establish standards in the sector.
If you have open standards that are used across the world, you have more innovation and more creativity – as well as more competition – among ecosystems. As a result of this, you have more – and better – devices and services available. It’s good for the economy and industry as a whole.
Can you tell us anything about how you work with your partners in terms of marketing campaigns?
MB: In my team we do a lot of work through the Intel Technology Provider programme, but mostly we spend a large amount of our time working with marketing campaigns with our customers, working on what they want to go to market with and how we incorporate our messaging and solutions into that in order to ensure that we touch the consumer.
Does Intel have more plans for the smartphone market?
CM: Absolutely. Asus’ [Intel-powered] Zen phones are available worldwide. We have multi-year agreements with Asus and Lenovo with phones, tablets and so forth. You’re going to see a lot of products in the next few months.
We want to keep on increasing our contributions to the smartphone and tablet segments, and all the evolutions of what was going on in the embedded world, which is now moving to IoT.
What developments do you foresee taking place in retail environments?
CM: You’re going to see evolutions in how people welcome you into a store – if you have a question, they will be able to respond right in front of you, check inventory, price points and instantly match the price of online.
You’ll also begin to see more and more digital signage – particularly in the UK, there are stores that now use new technology, not only PC retailers, but also when buying a car or even a retailer like Burberry, for example.
MB: There’s a lot going on. I’m seeing enthusiasts go for our NUC product because you can tinker with it and build something, but I’m also seeing it being installed in digital signage, POS and other retail environments.
How did the Intel pop-up store in New York fare? Are there any plans to bring a similar outlet to the UK?
CM: We did consider it some years ago. It’s a nice concept, and we will see. We’re trying new things and seeing what makes sense, and we will see what we do – but if it makes sense we will do it, absolutely.
What would you say the biggest challenge currently facing the tech market is?
MB: Budgets are still under scrutiny, and people are still spending time seeing if they can justify spends and things like that – that’s certainly tough for the channel.
But I’m still more optimistic than anything and every customer I speak to says they’re very positive about the year to come.
CM: The opportunity today for the technology sector is higher than it has ever been before. The world is moving digital. Companies, industry segments, governments and countries – it’s not an option, you need to become digital just to be more sustainable in everything you do.
Transportation, smart cities, education; everything has got to become smarter, and to become smarter you have to have technology, standards, ecosystems and businesses interfacing with devices.
In March 2014, Intel completed its acquisition of health tracker and wearable tech specialist BASIS Science, as a move to bring it closer into the wearable tech marketplace. The company offers a range of devices for tracking activity, sleeping habits and advising users on how to develop healthy habits.
Intel invested $740 million in Cloudera for an 18 per cent stake in the big data software distributor. The investment, which joined another undisclosed sum invested in the firm by Intel in March 2013, contributed to Cloudera’s completion of a $900 million round of funding.
Intel also invested in cloud strategy consulting and implementation firm CloudFX. The firm aims to advise businesses on the use of cloud technology by simplifying the utilisation of cloud platforms and services in enterprise environments.
In October 2013, Intel invested in cloud storage software company Cloudian, as part of a $65 million investment into 16 new technology companies. The other companies included cloud file service Fileforce, connectivity vendor Lintes Technologies and open source database solutions firm SkySQL.