Better Living Through Big Data

Intel’s quantum computing, battery-boosting, super-sensing, quadcopter-flying future

 

You can tell a lot about an organisation’s ambitions by the patents they file and the companies they invest in. Samsung has recently invested in AI and digital media. Apple has filed a patent for a fuel cell that could power a MacBook for a week. LG, meanwhile, is betting big on OLED — $8.5 billion-worth of big.

So if Intel’s recent investments are any indication, we’re heading towards a quantum computing, battery-boosting, super-sensing, quadcopter-flying future.

Quantum computing

A quantum computer represents the next generation of computing, promising a vast increase in number-crunching performance. As Intel points out, quantum computing “holds the promise of solving complex problems that are practically insurmountable today, including intricate simulations such as large-scale financial analysis and more effective drug development.”

A fully functioning quantum computer might still be a decade away, but Intel’s $50 million collaboration with QuTech, the quantum research institute of Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) and TNO, hopes to bring it that bit closer to reality.

quantum computing intel and TU Delft
A quantum computer without its protective thermal casing at the quantum research institute of Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) and TNO.

“How do we connect thousands of quantum bits, or qubits, together?” Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said. “How can we control them? How can we reliably fabricate, connect and control many more qubits? Even measuring qubit signals is going to require an entirely new class of low temperature electronics that don’t exist today. Solving big problems is what we do at Intel, and it’s what gets me excited.”

Battery-boosting

Despite the advances in mobile technology over the years, lithium-ion batteries have barely improved. Until a revolutionary replacement is found, manufacturers are forced to find power savings elsewhere. It’s one of the reasons why Intel has invested in Qnovo and its adaptive charging system, which promises faster charging and extended battery lifetime.

Qnovo’s software algorithm won’t help you get more battery life out of an existing cell. Instead, it “continuously monitors the battery health and adjusts the speed of charging – hundreds of times a second.” A 15-minute Qnovo charge could give you six hours of battery life back, compared to two hours if charged conventionally.

qnovo-longer-battery-life

The extra financing should enable Qnovo to launch its technology alongside smartphones in 2016 and expand it to other devices, such as laptops, in the future.

Super-sensing

You probably won’t have heard of computational photography company Almalence. But they are working on some exciting ‘super-sensing’ technology to double the resolution and performance of everything from DSLR cameras to smartphones.

Like Qnovo, Almalence is approaching a hardware problem from a software angle. Its SuperSensor technology virtually replaces the sensor with a bigger one, not only boosting the resolution, but improving low light sensitivity and expanding dynamic range.

Almalence SuperSensor example
The dynamic range of the left camera was not enough to capture both the bright background and the foreground building, which is lost in shadow. The right image, taken with the same camera and SuperSensor techonlogy, has an extended dynamic range to capture both the bright sky and the building.

“Mobile handset makers always come to a point where camera quality improvement is impossible due to size restrictions or the cost, usually both”, explains Eugene Panich, CEO of Almalence.

“Using a computational component such as SuperSensor is a way to improve mobile camera features without adding a micron to its size and at just a small fraction of the cost of typical hardware improvement. While hardware improvements can take years to utilize, the time to market for a computational component could be as short as days, and you can even put it into the devices that are already sold via a system upgrade.”

Quadcopter-flying

Last, but by no means least, Intel has also invested more than $60 million into Chinese drone manufacturer Yuneec International Co. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich believes that aerial vehicles like Yuneec’s Typhoon Q500 quadcopter (with a 4K video capability) “will revolutionise the drone industry.”

Find out more about the partnership between Intel and Yuneec in the video below.

So there you have it. Four key investments that could herald a quantum computing, battery-boosting, super-sensing and quadcopter-flying future. Each one an important step towards Intel’s vision of a smarter, more connected world. — Dean Evans (@evansdp)

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