Intel taps wine barrel to power microprocessors

September 13, 2013 // 9:39 a.m.

Tags: #arm #atmel #embedded-computing #genevieve-bell #idf #intel-developer-forum #intel-quark #internet-of-things #iot #mike-bell #quark #texas-instruments

Attendees at the Intel Developer Forum this week were treated to an unusually booze-soddled demonstration from the company, which used wine as a power source for its embedded low-power processing system.

Designed to show off the capabilities of Intel's ultra low-power microprocessors, in particular its recently-announced Quark family, the demonstration by Intel fellow Genevieve Bell saw a tiny embedded computing system run a program and output graphics to an ePaper electrophoretic display.

By itself, that hardly sounds like an impressive demonstration; Intel, however, upped the ante by showing that the system ran on so little power, it could be run from a glass of red wine with no traditional power source in sight.

It's a trick anybody with school-age children will likely recognise: the acidic wine was used as a simple chemical battery, with two metal strips acting as cathode and anode. The same technology is used in science classes and gadget shops to power small quartz clocks from oranges, lemons or even potatoes - although, Valve's Portal 2 notwithstanding, the latter is unlikely to offer the juice required to run an entire computing system.

So, a simple application of science - but one that demonstrates Intel's commitment to the embedded market, which is currently dominated by microcontroller systems produced by rivals including Texas Instruments and Atmel at the low end and microprocessors based on ARM's intellectual property at the high end.

Speaking at the event, the vice-president of Intel's New Devices arm Mike Bell claimed his company was beginning to think in microwatts rather than milliwatts, producing ultra low-power processors and chipsets that it hopes will give it a foothold in the burgeoning embedded market. In particular, Bell highlighted experimental devices including smartwatches, computerised glasses and even bracelets - although a demonstration bracelet used at the event to turn the audience into a low-resolution display surface turned out to be an off-the-shelf product from Pixmob, powered by an Atmel microcontroller.

With increasing interest in wearable computing - Samsung and Sony are going head-to-head with smaller rivals in the smartwatch market while Apple is predicted to be launching a device of its own in the near future - and the market for Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices growing, Intel's push could be an interesting shake-up for a market that it has traditionally ignored.
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