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21 August 2015

Intel makes Atmel, Microchip and Google IoT moves at IDF

Intel used the Intel Developer Forum to remind the world of its IoT ambitions, and announced three prominent deals at the event to this end. First, we heard of a collaboration with Microchip to add the Intel Enhanced Privacy ID (EPID) into Microchip’s products. A second deal with Atmel does the same thing, and the third deal unveiled was a partnership with Google and its 3D mapping initiative Project Tango, which adds Intel’s RealSense technology to the platform.

The EPID is a hardware technology that provides a root of trust and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) compatibility – to provide confirmation of identity when sending data from end-points. EPID has been shipping in many Intel platforms since 2011, and is currently an ISO and TCG standard after Intel contributed its code to the organizations.

EPID allows two devices to form secure remote connections which is key to IoT deployments that want to send sensitive data from the network edge to the cloud. In addition, EPID can assign and revoke group memberships for individual devices, and allow the system to determine a device’s group membership without revealing the device’s platform, which Intel says adds another layer of security to its system. The private signature of the end-device can be verified by its group public key, which authorizes without uniquely identifying, and the EPID signatures (apparently) can’t be opened to identify the member.

Effectively an on-ramp for devices to connect them to Intel’s IoT platform, the system would allow a device like a car to connect to something like a security gate or barrier and be authorized to enter, based on the secure group identity. This would prevent someone who wasn’t authorized to track the movements of individual cars, as that gate/barrier data would just confirm that one of a group of authorized vehicles was granted access, instead of leaking the individual identity to this onlooker.

Microchip says it will implement EPID into its products, which reads like it intends to add to the entire portfolio even though we’re pretty sure that won’t be the case. Atmel confirmed that it will support EPID on its SmartConnect range of self-contained, low-power WiFi MCUs and SoCs – a range which does include some Bluetooth functionality too.

“With the rapidly growing IoT ecosystem, security is key, and Intel EPID is a proven secure technology that can provide the billions of devices in this new market with a common security foundation. By implementing EPID technology, Atmel and Microchip are enabling a more secure, seamless IoT platform,” said Lori Wigle, GM IoT Security at Intel.

Both Atmel and Microchip have sung the praises of EPID, and Intel notes that they are joining an ecosystem of some 1.1bn EPID-certified devices. But outside of chip-level security, Intel also showed off the latest progress of its 3D camera software, RealSense, by combining it with Google’s 3D mapping initiative Project Tango.

The collaboration saw Intel CEO Brian Krzanich unveil a prototype smartphone on stage, which was capable of photographing and mapping a room in a few seconds. The map is stitched together from the images captured by the multiple cameras on the phone, and combined with the data that Tango collects using motion tracking and depth sensing.

Krzanich pointed to using the technology to scan household objects and order designs from professional 3D printers. That’s likely going to be quite a niche use in the short term, and RealSense has already been demonstrated with more practical functions – such as gesture commands to control on-screen content, thanks to the depth-sensing.

Tango and RealSense’s greater value is in providing affordable eyes to vast cloud computing arrays, which will almost certainly be powered by Intel CPUs thanks to its dominance in the server market. For Google, Tango gives it valuable insight into the buildings that its Maps platform can’t reach, as well as providing a whole host of new potential functionality to the Android ecosystem.

As well as cloud platforms, RealSense can give eyes to robotic platforms – something that Intel took pride in on-stage, demoing a number of projects that were navigating the environment using the depth-perceptive image processing technology.

RealSense support for a number of other environments was announced, including Robot Operating System (ROS), Linux, Scratch, CSplit, OBS, Structure SDK for iOS, Razer’s OSVR and Unreal Engine 4.

Razer has already announced a RealSense webcam, aimed at gamers who want to take advantage of RealSense’s ability to ignore the background content and focus on inserting only the player into the streamed video content that many gamers enjoy sharing with others over platforms such as Amazon-owned Twitch.tv. The technology will find a much greater use in something like Skype, however.

A few laptops already have RealSense-compatible cameras, including Asus, HP, Dell, Acer and Lenovo, and the HP Sprout workstation also makes use of the technology to help users replicate and model real-world objects in digital 3D environments.

In addition, “The introduction of the Intel IoT Commercial Developer Kit is part of that evolution, to provide a complete scalable solution for IoT developers that enables a path from prototype to product that is more streamlined and is easy to innovate,” announced Bill Pearson, director of Intel’s IoT developer program. “The kit includes an Intel Galileo Board, a variety of sensors, and Wind River software. Intel IoT Commercial Developer Kits combine an end to end solution of APIs, security, cloud connectivity, and IDEs to meet the needs of developers.