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Intel’s Quark chip will help usher in the Internet of Things

By Evan Wade / November 1, 2013

The term Internet of Things is decidedly vague, but the concept is limitless. If you’ve ever looked at a so-called “dumb” product in your home—a toaster or door lock, for example—and wondered how Internet connectivity might improve it, then Intel’s Quark chip could hold the answer.

The chips, which require less space and power than their regular-sized counterparts, could represent a true revolution for mass connectivity. Possible uses touch everything from wearables to robotics to standard household goods. Whatever comes of advancements like the Quark chip, it’s clear that the idea of connectivity is about to change for the better.

A truly connected future

While smart devices play a huge role in the future of connectivity, they’re far from the final stop in technology’s continuing evolution. Alongside wearables and robotics, there’s vast potential for connectivity among a host of consumer products. All they need is processing power. That’s where companies like Intel come into play. By making a smaller, more power-efficient chip, the hardware giant has created a way to bring processing power to products of all shapes, sizes and purposes.

At this point, it’s impossible to know Quark’s full potential. Critics, like SingularityHUB’s Jason Dorrier, count a lack of “meaningful information” about the Intel Quark chip as a large setback, but history has always been kind to the miniaturization of technology. Processors and systems on a chip (SoCs), tends to get smaller to great effect. The shrinkage is how we ended up with the smartphones and tablets we know and love.

Infinite use cases

Intel tech expert, Steve Brown, sees a very specific future for microcomputing. He believes we can expect to see “meaningful amounts of computing at close to zero power or almost zero physical size” in as little as a decade or two. Whether that specific prediction comes true or not, the possibilities are certainly exciting. With implications like chips small and safe enough to ingest coming down the pipeline, it’s clear major change is afoot.

Take the automotive industry, for instance. QR codes certainly make work duties—like inventory tracking—less of a chore, but a Quark chip could fully automate the process by transmitting data—such as size, location and inventory quantities—without any manual checks. Wearables, a burgeoning technology tasked with cramming lots of hardware into small, flexible form factors, are another obvious benefactor of smaller SoCs.

As the physical size of technology gets smaller, so does the price tag. One Wall Street Journal article suggests the tiny processors could cost as little as $15 to $30 each, a small price to turn a formerly “dumb” device into an Internet-connected data resource. The unparalleled growth of the mobile industry has made it clear that there’s a market for small, inexpensive computing devices, and a budget-priced solution like Intel’s Quark chip could help manufacturers of all sorts fill the need.

Tech upgrades need a reason

While it’s impossible to predict all the uses for tiny chips like Intel’s, you can probably imagine an even greater number of devices connected to the Internet for no good reason. A recent Fast Company update advises device makers to ask why they’re connecting their products, and tells them to skip connectivity altogether if the change has no real value to the person using the product. It’s an important consideration to make, but the market will ultimately decide what connected devices are worthwhile.

The future of connectivity

Who will make the first major splash in the new world of micro computing? While Intel looks like a contender, given their history and existing facilities, the true news-making products probably won’t be the chips themselves. Instead, expect the devices carrying those chips to bring tiny SoCs into the public perception. From there, who knows? However vague the future of mass connectivity may be, we can’t wait to see what shapes it takes.