Intel promotes better living through silicon

The combination of high-performance, low-power chips and medical diagnostic devices will change the way health care is delivered, enabling technologies such as real-time monitoring of an elderly parent or sensors that can detect disease, said Pat Gelsinger, Intel Corp.'s senior vice president and chief technology officer, during the final keynote of the Spring Intel Developer Forum here Friday.

Intel executives discussed the company's work at putting chips inside future products that will help improve the quality of life for people as they age through better care and behavior monitoring. U.S. spending on health care products and services represents about 15 percent of the country's gross domestic product, and that percentage will grow over the next 10 to 15 years, Gelsinger said.

The health care concerns of an aging world population will require new products and devices that allow adult children to monitor and care for aging parents, said Eric Dishman, director of proactive health research at Intel. Dishman demonstrated a combination of infrared sensors and location-aware chips that allowed conference attendees to monitor Gelsinger's movements about the keynote stage, providing information such as the total distance Gelsinger had walked since waking up.

This would allow concerned relatives to notice if an older person has spent too long in a certain location, signifying a fall or some other type of accident, Dishman said. The sensors could also detect whether a person with Alzheimer's disease or other dementia-related illnesses has wandered away from home, he said.

The use of improved microphones will also lead to the adoption of speech technology, an application that has shown a lot of promise but not a lot of products, Gelsinger said. A computer could then prompt the user to take their medication, or understand a call for help, he said.

Privacy concerns are always an issue with health-care data, and will be extremely important to the adoption of devices that wirelessly transmit personal information to relatives or doctors, Gelsinger said.

Biotechnology researchers are also working with Intel engineers to build products that can move a stream of molecules through a chip, said Andy Berlin, director of biotechnology research at Intel. The technology already exists to allow molecules to move through silicon based sensors, but Intel is hoping that researchers will be able to detect patterns in molecules that allow them to identify diseases such as cancer before traditional symptoms become evident, Berlin said.

Gelsinger provided an update on a project known as Radio Free Intel, the company's initiative to bring radio technology to every processor it sells. Originally conceived as a five to eight year effort when introduced last year, Intel is ahead of schedule in making that idea a reality, he said.

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