Cloudy, with a chance of video…

My grandfather was born in the early 1900’s.  By all accounts he was a hardworking man with a strong degree of curiosity.  He passed away in his late 80’s and before he died I remember talking to him about my pursuit of an Electrical Engineering degree.  He nodded politely, asked a few questions and when I helped to fix the electrical outlet in his garage I got the sense that he thought I was heading down the path to be an electrician.  I believe that thought pleased him.  Several years ago I was explaining to my five year old daughter in layman’s terms what I did for a living and what my company made.  I said things like “We make tiny engines that run computers” or “I work with computers that run websites like Webkinz® and Disney®”.  She seemed impressed.  Months later when she was asked by a parent of her friend what her dad did for a living I was a combination of proud and surprised to hear that she replied “They make chips…”  (proud moment) “…and salsa!” (um OK.  I still have work to do).

Now the other day she walked up to me and said something like “Dad, I am having trouble getting the Slingbox to work on mom’s iPod Touch.  It is connected to the Internet but the remote does not seem to be changing the channel.  Can you help me?”  Clearly she has made some progress up the technology curve, but it also struck me how far she has come.  Kids these days are surrounded by technology.  In our house alone there are at least the following electronic devices; Oven, Microwave, AppleTV, refrigerator, smoke detector (3), carbon monoxide detector, programmable thermostat, furnace, radio, garage door opener (2), wireless speakers, televisions (3), set top boxes (3), ceiling fans with remotes (3), netbook, Slingbox, Clear wireless router, remote outlet, sprinkler control box, iPod Touch, desktop computer, Wii, iPod shuffle (2), alarm clocks (3), oven timer, electronic light dimmer, cordless phones (4), AV receiver, DVD players (3), VCR, iPod docking station, security system, motion sensor, camcorder, camera (2), USB hub, music keyboard, AV switch, computer keyboard, battery chargers (4), Wii remotes (4), Wii Fit Pad, Wii drums, copier/fax/scanner, computer monitor, AC, Power supplies (4), RFID credit cards (2), washer, dryer, noise canceling headphones, answering machine, internet modem, cell phones (2), handheld GPS, auto GPS and electronic battleship.

I am sure I have forgotten several things and I did not count cars or anything at my children’s school.  I am also sure each of the electronic devices in our house has either a processor, microcontroller, ASIC or multiple of each.  Admittedly, the silicon content in our house is probably above average given where I work and the personalities my wife and I have.  But when I think back to my grandfather he had none of these silicon laden items.  I am sure he didn’t care since it is hard to miss something you never knew.  Of the hundreds of pieces of silicon in our house about a dozen or so are smart enough to connect to each other or to “the cloud” in some way.  I put “the cloud” in quotes because it is not only the most over-hyped word of it’s time it is also the best way to articulate what I suspect my children and many others think of the services that they get when all of this stuff gets connected.

I can safely say two things are fact. First, my grandchildren will have in their house many more pieces of silicon than I do. Second, they will have more pieces of silicon that can connect to each other and communicate with “the cloud”.  There are many billions of devices connected to the Internet today and that number will grow.  At Intel we are building silicon, and increasingly software assets, that facilitate the processing and movement of data both on those devices and between them. Servers are increasingly becoming an important part of that over-hyped cloud word. My cable company has a cloud delivering me my on demand video content, A social media site allows me to upload pictures into their cloud to share with my friends, someone just used a cloud architecture to develop a perpetual motion machine.  OK, one of those things was false.

My grandfather thought a cloud was something in the sky.  My children think it streams video to their handheld device.  What will our great-grandchildren think?