Make my life better? How?
During pre-show day for IDF 2008, held in San Francisco, Andrew Chien, VP Corporate Technology Group, spoke lyrically about what Intel was doing to bridge the barrier that exists between the everyday physical and computer-based digital worlds. The conduit required in seamlessly integrating the two, he stated, was in developing sensors with greater and greater granularity, because it's through them that the physical environment is translated into digital information. Believe us, it's not as boring as it sounds.
He noted that sensors are currently employed in everyday lives, from GPS to cameras, but they need to do more than that in the future, from microscopic to macroscopic levels.
The point here, we believe, is that high-performing computers can be used for much more than number-crunching activities, and it's the physical-to-digital sensors and, relatedly, the software required to understand and interpret the data, that have compromised the emergence of the next step in monitoring and responding.
Sensors needed to become far more accurate to have a meaningful benefit to our lives - digital health, if you will. Chien then highlighted an application developed in Intel's research labs, DermFind.
DermFind is an interactive program and tools that helps improve melanoma (skin cancer) detection by capturing an image of a skin lesion, which is then cross-referenced against a large medical image database. By comparing the two, Chien said, doctors can make a better assessment of the condition than by viewing it alone.
Why is Intel putting so much money behind such digital health ventures? The cynical answer is that it really opens the door for greater revenue from streams that were previously unavailable to it. The optimistic answer is that it's an altruistic venture to further medical research and prognosis. The truth, most likely, lies between the two.
Imagine a mobile phone that, linked via sensors, can determine your heart rate, stress levels, activity rate, and mood (gesture recognition). Then imagine all that data catalogued and sent to your GP on a regular basis. The computational challenge, though, is to reduce it all to a sub-1W power envelope.
In summary, with respect to health monitoring, vast processing power is only useful when aligned with new, better-performing sensors, together with appropriate software to understand it. Pragmatically speaking, Average Joe will be seeing a greater number of sensing platforms - be they medical or otherwise - in years to come. Overtones of Big Brother or helpful? We'll let you decide.
Now, where's that Samsung Digital Health phone, huh?