Intel Moves On Energy Savings And Wireless Power


A look at some of the technology Intel currently has in active R&D shows ways to save energy within the data centre or PC and new ways to recharge laptop batteries while on the road. Intel says many of these developing technologies are years away from being rolled out in final form.

Intel showed some new technologies in its R&D pipeline, on a 25 February presentation in New York. A few notable developments focus on saving energy or finding new ways to transmit it to laptops and other portable devices.

On display was an early prototype of a WREL (Wireless Resonant Energy Link). Although currently in its simplest proof-of-concept form, with several loops of copper wire connected to what looked like a battery, the device will theoretically charge nearby laptop batteries wirelessly via magnetic fields.

Intel is still designing the device for the laptop that will receive the energy generated by the WREL, but the company says it is working toward 90 percent efficiency in wireless energy transmission. With power packs, efficiency currently stands at around 70 percent.

During the presentation, a light bulb connected to a construct of copper wiring substituted for a theoretical laptop energy receiver; placed within three feet of the WREL station, the bulb burned brightly, only to darken once it was removed to a greater distance.

An effective WREL setup could have fairly substantial enterprise applications. For business travellers, the possibility of being able to charge a laptop battery simply by walking into a particular area of a hotel or airport lounge is a welcome one. A WREL station installed in a wall or at a central office hub could conceivably power nearby workers’ devices cordlessly.

“The technology is maybe five years away,” said David Meyer of the Intel Corporate Technology Group, who gave the presentation. There may be an active demo with a laptop around a year from now, he said.

Also at the presentation, Intel unveiled what it terms Platform Power Management, which looks at ways to cut back power use by hardware architecture beyond the microprocessor chip. Intel aims to reduce power consumption by a wide range of devices, including handhelds and servers.

Thanks to the technological tinkering, some portable devices may be seeing increased energy efficiency within two years. The company declined to comment on a time frame for the rollout of these more energy-efficient hardware components.

One of the energy innovations will involve screens. “Normally, screens refresh 60 times per second,” Manny Vara of the Intel Corporate Technology Group said during the presentation. “It takes energy to have the system continuously redrawing that screen.” New technology would “grab an image from the frame buffer and put it up on the screen until there’s some movement” from the user, he said.

The possibility of screen burnout under such circumstances is, apparently, not a concern.

Intel anticipates a 30 to 50 percent reduction in energy usage thanks to the more efficient designs, presenters said.

Intel unveiled a host of other future technologies at the presentation, and included one device currently on the market: the Intel Health Guide, a friendly-looking white box with a screen that allows patients to check their recent health history, be reminded of when they need to take certain drugs, and participate in video conferences with their physician via a camera integrated into the device.

Intel’s Digital Health Group has been engaging in fieldwork and collecting data in order to create digital networks that it says will allow health care providers to better manage—and possibly build solutions for—everything from nurse workflow to disease paths.