Intel seeks connected home for Atom
Vodafone to provide the needed connectivity
Vodafone and Intel have banded together to push Atom chips, and Vodafone connectivity, into cars, fridges and toasters – the humans already being adequately equipped.
The two companies reckon it is the complexity of development that is stopping manufacturers connecting up our washing machines and cookers, and will thus release an easy-to-use Atom-based developers' kit to spur development in the machine-to-machine industry.
"Take-up has been partly held back by the complexity of installing and managing the technology," according to Vodafone's head of M2M, who promises greater simplicity though wireless connectivity.
It is not just Vodafone and Intel who reckon we're about to start connecting up all our appliances – last week France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom started working out how to ensure cross-border compatibility for M2M services, so a manufacturer can just drop in a module and ship it anywhere in the world with confidence that it will find an internet connection when it gets there.
This is the same problem that Qualcomm reckons its Gobi technology can solve, and a solution has to be found if all in-home connectivity isn't going to end up using Wi-Fi by default.
The great thing about Wi-Fi, for manufacturers of white goods, is the ability to drop in a chip and antenna without worrying about where in the world the product gets shipped. The problem with Wi-Fi is the need for a user interface, and a user capable of interacting with it, and the associated support issues.
Mobile operators reckon they can connect up all those low-traffic devices by simply providing a SIM slot, or perhaps not even that if the management of embedded SIMs can be agreed on. It might seem counterintuitive for your dishwasher to have its own mobile phone when you've got a perfectly good ADSL connection locally, but if it means that the least technically literate individual can use it, then manufacturers might be interested ... once they've thought of a reason to network your dishwasher, that is. ®
Why would I want to put a $40+ Atom chip inside a $20 white goods appliance like a toaster, or even a $200 appliance like a washing machine? I can't think of any use case for this which adds end use value which justifies any significant price increase.
If you are going to do this then a fully integrated ARM-based SoC, which are commonly available for $5 - $10 would make far more sense.
>> the complexity of development that is stopping manufacturers connecting up our washing machines and cookers
I think they'll find its (1) the lack of an actual use case that end customers care about, and therefore (2) the lack of desire of consumers to actually pay for it.
If there was a need for this kind of crap, we'd have it by now. What is the point in controlling/monitoring your washing machine/dishwasher remotely when you still have to walk up to it to put the clothes/dishes in and take them out?
In any case, what on earth does an x86 bring to this application that a much cheaper, much simpler ARM7/ARM9/Cortex-M3 does not? Hell, a 6502 would be more than adequate in most cases!
A pointless exercise?
Well, others have criticised the choice of an x86 CPU already, so I guess there's no need for me to do so, the point has been made.
Have Intel been living under a rock this past month? Why on earth would I want to be able to control my washing machine from another part of the house?
Okay, perhaps the idea is to be able to control it over the Internet, yes? More plausible, I suppose they'll be making clothes that can be remote controlled too, so that my shirts and trousers get up, walk downstairs and put themselves in the washing machine.
That should be fun. "What could *possibly* go wrong?!" as Keith Packard would say.
But wait, I've got, for now, a single public IPv4 address. And a router with only 65536 ports. How were they going to do this again? We're supposed to beg and grovel to IANA for a /8 so we don't have to carry our clothes to the washing machine? Too late.
I guess they could implement IPv6 for this. Yes, we have a whole /56 here … via a tunnel though, since our ISP is stuck thinking RFC791 is state-of-the-art. There is only one consumer ISP in Australia that I know offers IPv6 to its customers, with a second rumoured to start offering it.
If this is what they're planning for our consumer goods, I wonder how they're going to handle being stuck behind a few layers of carrier NAT?
Never mind that the exercise is pointless anyway.
Look at it this way
Because that would actually cause more waves to be kicked into the ether and hence more interference, for less gain. Other than that it's not a bad idea.
This sort of thing you'd probably better do with zigbee, bluetooth, wifi, or even just adding an ethernet plug to the back of the device. OTOH, that doesn't allow this operator to reap a nice steady revenue stream from subscriptions people once get then blithely forget ("uh, I'm paying $sum a month for my fridge? I'd forgotten all about that!") perhaps even long after the device'd died and gone to the scrapheap, especially likely among the targeted tech-illiterate, for a service nobody actually needs.
Me, I thinks this sort of "innovation" is a bit too cynical to accept from a telco. And why is chipzilla so pathetically eager to push this chip that isn't even particularly suited to the task?
Dishwasher and washing machine are arguably the most practical household appliances to be networked. They draw relatively large power for relatively short spurts. And there is generally some flexibility in when these machines need to complete their cycle by,
Network power load-balancing applications could save the utilities a great deal of money by optimising the schedule of domestic appliance cycles against real-time power consumption on the network. Flattening peak loads to near base load.
Utilities savings could be passed on to consumers through load-aware pricing plans.