IDF, Intel's annual technology fest, starts tomorrow in San Francisco, USA. The event gives insight into the chip giant's thinking - hardware and software - for the year to come.
Historically, the day before IDF is devoted to discussing broad technology trends impacting upon the industry and, looking wider, to the world at large. Here's what we learnt from this year's discourse.
At the pre-IDF day, Intel discussed the role of information technology with respect to disaster management - be it technical or humanitarian. Putting it all into context, Keri Carkeek, an eco-technology strategist, pictured right, described that 385 significant humanitarian disasters occurred in 2010, where some 217m were affected and $123.9bn of damage was caused.
Disaster management also extends to IT itself; the Y2K bug being a prime example. On a smaller scale, most firms simply don't have data-disaster recovery plans in place, while the majority of individuals aren't prepared for data loss, said Intel's Perry Olson. This data-recovery malaise exists because people simply don't plan ahead, potentially jeopardising data longevity, even though offsite backup to the cloud is now a viable option. We need to mitigate, prepare and respond, he said.
Weather, sensors and HPC
Earth Networks' CEO Robert Marshall next stepped up to discuss implications emanating from a different type of disaster: extreme weather. His company's key technologies observe, analyse and predict weather patterns, with the aim of providing timely data that'll prepare societies for burgeoning weather-related disasters.
Operating the world's largest weather network which processes 5bn connections per day, through the use of tens of thousands of networked sensors spread across the world, Earth Networks is able to predict and warn people on impending weather disasters. Multiple networked sensors and algorithm processing via high-performance computing is the key in pushing out timely updates to an eclectic array of computing devices, Marshall noted.
Being prepared to change
Michael Bowers, senior director for MercyCorps, a global relief agency, then commented that technology is only a part of the process in humanitarian disasters. The next step is to use the tech and adapt it for the particular disaster, citing examples such as mobile-cash payments for Haiti, people-tracking via cell phones in Pakistan, and using bloggers' posts to direct aid in Sichuan, China.
The question you may ask is why Intel is putting so much focus on disaster management the day before the official start of its developer forum. Thinking about it logically, disaster management, in its varying forms, presents an avenue by which the chip giant can increase its silicon footprint and revenue. You see, a common theme in almost all IT management is the need to process and analyse data quickly and efficiently. Intel's chips can help with the first part, and there's nary a better way to develop IT relationships with governments of disaster-struck countries than by supplying on-the-ground non-government organisations with hardware and software support.