Intel’s “Upgrade Your Life” Event

Along with 12 other site owners, I was invited to attend the Intel “Upgrade Your Life” experience in Santa Clara, California on July 13th. I went into this event with no itinerary and no idea of what we were going to see, but I figured it had to be more than “just” processor chips. Sure enough, I was in for an eye-opening day …

After a greeting by Intel’s Social Media guru Alison Wesley and an ice-breaking game of ‘guess the tweet’ game, we were on to the first speaker …

Suzanne Fallender – Director, Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy and Communications – “Green is the New Black”

Suzanne Fallender has more than 15 years of experience in the fields of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability. At Intel, Suzanne works with business groups and senior management across the company—including environmental health & safety, human resources and diversity, supply chain, legal, government affairs and community relations—to integrate corporate responsibility into strategic planning, policies, external and internal communications, and employee engagement activities. Suzanne also manages external reporting of Intel’s global corporate responsibility programs and performance, including publication of Intel’s annual corporate responsibility report.

Suzanne started by asking us what we had done to reduce our environmental footprint. Some of the immediate replies included “I bought a Prius”, “I’m a vegan, which is even better than driving a Prius”, “I’ve put in a solar array on my house”, and “We are doing that, too!” I kept my mouth shut because I don’t drive a hybrid and I do eat meat (I’m not giving it up, either — sorry!), but we do haul our trash into town rather than burning it, we haul our recycling to San Angelo once a month rather than throwing it away, and we are always conscious of the choices we make at the ranch and how they will affect the aquifer underneath us. And sure — we would LOVE to install a solar array and a personal electric windmill and take our house off of purchased utilities totally, but that will take some time.

But back on point!

Intel has been reclaiming and recycling waste since 1971 and currently recycles over 80% of their solid waste, reclaim gray water, and create energy through the use of massive solar arrays. In other words Intel not only wants to make computing more efficient, they want to make the entire industry smarter and greener. I was impressed to find that Intel is trying to find creative ways to be more environmentally responsible, and teach others to do the same.

One way they are doing this is through “Eco-Technology Innovation” that lets consumers to make “greener” choices by enabling to see what appliances are using the most energy (especially at peak hours) around their homes. This is accomplished with a home management system that wirelessly reads each appliances and beams information from them to a control console that displays the results. Consumers get this information and then are able to make more informed decisions regarding what devices to use and when to use them based upon actual usage.

Another example if this is Intel’s “Progress through Processors” initiative. Progress through Processors allows you to volunteer your computer’s unused resources to contribute unused / extra capacity to massive computations that researchers have to do without having to use their own computing power. In a sense Intel makes it possible to take unused computing power and create a massively powerful “computer collective” that doesn’t consume any additional resources. As they put it, “Without volunteer computing, it would have taken them 50,000 years to do the computations that they have been able to do in two years.”

At Intel we firmly believe that any journey starts with ourselves. Intel’s DNA is firmly rooted in sustainable practices. We also lead the industry in applying the benefits of technology to create new possibilities for a better life tomorrow. While the ICT industry currently represents 2 percent of total carbon emissions, the implementation of ICT can contribute to an estimated 15 percent reduction in carbon emissions for all industries through energy and productivity efficiencies.

Intel is extending computing technology to enable sustainability that connects and enriches the lives of every person on earth today and into the future. Underscoring the potential of energy-efficient computing, Intel estimates that as the number of PCs hits 2 billion, the yearly power consumption will decrease by half while delivering a 17-fold improvement in performance. In our labs, we are looking at developing technology that better enables individuals to manage their energy usage, as well as companies and governments to empower their employees and citizens to make informed and smart energy decisions.

Intel also believes that creating a better future also requires help from everyday individuals. The Intel “Progress Thru Processors” app is a volunteer computing appt and Facebook community that enables individuals to provide critical “brain power” to scientists who are focused on life-changing research. People simply and safely download the app and run their computer as they normally would. Much life-changing research could not be effectively conducted without this computing power.

Where to Start: Intel is creating more ways for us to be environmentally responsible but, at times, it can be difficult to figure out where to start. The best suggestion I heard– Start Small with a few Do’s and Dont’s

DO you use the power management settings on your computer
DO get a bag that has a solar charger for your cell phone, DO reduce the thermostat a couple of degrees during the day
DO use an efficient thermostat timer at night
DO turning off your electronics at night.
DO choose products from companies with a responsible environmental plan and recycling program
DON’T print things that can be digitized,
DON’T make excuses and DO nothing

Intel Tech Wonders

Ms. Alex Zafiroglu – Senior Researcher, Interactions and Experience Research – An Archaeology of the Present: Cars, Mobile Technologies & Messiness

Alex works in the Interactions and Experience Research (IXR) group, part of the Intel Labs, as a senior researcher. Since joining Intel in 2004, she has conducted ethnographic research in households in North America, Western Europe and South and East Asia – from homes, youth hostels and RV parks to rallies, stores and offices. As a cultural anthropologist, she is interested in the complex relationships among people, spaces, objects and technologies. Her work helps Intel think about the kinds of technologies and experiences with technology that make sense in homes and beyond. Alex earned her Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from Brown University, where she was a Fulbright Scholar.

Alex started out in archeology, but decided that it was a lot more interesting to spend time with live people. =) She is now part of a group at Intel that does exploratory research on how people are using technology all over the world; observing how they are using technology now and how they WANT technology use technology in the future. Alex’s division has three teams, each composed of archeologists, designers, and technologists (hardware and software designers). Their mandate is clear: rather than creating a new technology and trying to sell it to people, they research what people all over the world are actually using and the things they want to be able to do.

They go out “into the field”, do their initial research and then, back in the lab, design, create and enable technology that will extend the use and impact of technology in a variety of settings.

Excavating Cars — Alex and her team’s current focus is on how to make people’s cars smarter and less the “weakest link” in peoples’ digital lives. They have already gone to Portland, LA, London, Reading, Adelaide, Singapore Penang, Beijing, Hangzhou, and plan to visit Brazil, Indonesia, Germany, and Russia. Drawing on theories from archeology they have, in each location, sought to discover how people use their cars and what they actually do in them.

Their question: “How do people use their cars? What do they carry in them and why? What technology is present in their cars and how is it used?”

One example of what Alex does can be seen in a vehicle that she “excavated”, belonging to “Boris”. She took a close look at the car and documented everything from a single scrap of paper, to a homemade Bluetooth system, to zip ties used at a stag party the weekend before. Through this prices of inquiry and documentation Intel gets an actual picture of automobile use rather than simply hypothesizing what happens day to day.

One thing they have discovered is that there are certain things that are almost always carried in vehicles: among them — like a pen and paper or tissue. At the same time there are also things that depend upon the owner’s geographical location (e.g., gift envelopes in Singapore or parking passes in Adelaide).

Another thing they have discovered is that cars also serve as graveyards for old technology: car chargers for old phones (two or three phones ago), and CDs (Alex called the car a CD’s “last stop before obsolescence”!!) They have also found that many people’s cars have aftermarket technology that allows people to do things that shouldn’t really be done while driving such as watch DVDs.

Other findings include “Lady Buttons”, those buttons about which people have NO IDEA what purpose they serve, people blaming themselves tech failures (e.g., GPS systems whose accuracy is off and require an update), and technology that works but is under-utilized.

They also found that people increasingly customize their cars to reflect their personality, show the world who they are, display their priorities and assert their independence.

They have also found that a surprising number of people will carry items in their car that increase their sense of security (both physically and socially). One person carries a bible in her car, another carries a bat (but keeps it in the trunk), another carries plastic bags for his partying friends to keep them from vomiting in his car, and one drove a bright yellow car so people could “see” her.

Technology is permeating outside of the home and office, including our cars. The ethnography team has been studying cars, people and technology. As an auto-dependent society, Alex has been asking people around the world the following types of questions: How do people use their cars? What do they carry with them and why? What technology is present and how is it used?

Intel’s ethnography group looks at the intersection of culture and technology, studying how people use technology in the “real world,” and helping the corporation to bridge the gap between what people want and what technology can accomplish (i.e. the “technology for technology’s sake” theory).

So to summarize: the first thing you should do before you build something new is figure out what people used in the past, so that you can learn what they want and will use in the future.

Dr. Eric Dishman – Intel Fellow, Digital Health Group?Director, Health Innovation and Policy – Upgrade Your Life (or that of your parents, your children…)

In 1999, Eric founded the Product Research and Innovation team responsible for driving Intel’s worldwide healthcare research, new product innovation, strategic planning, and health policy and standards activities. Eric is widely recognized as a global leader in driving healthcare reform through home and community-based technologies and services, with special focus on enabling independent living for seniors. The Wall Street Journal named him one of “12 People Who Are Changing Your Retirement”, and recently he was named one of the Top 100 “Most Creative People” by FastCompany Magazine.

We “met” with Eric over Skype and he spoke to us about the ways technology can help transform eldercare. As he put it, “Technology is no magic pill” but then went on to point out that it needs to play a significant role as our population ages.

Caregiving is a huge challenge for people as they become caregivers for parents and other loved ones. The number of people who are 60 is exploding. In 2002 10% of the population was 10%. In 2050 it will rise to 21%. In practical terms that means huge changes in the workforce. In the US we currently have 5 workers for every retiree. Over the next 30 years that will drop to only 3:1. In Japan it is even more dire. In 30 years there will be just 2 workers for every one retiree . (All stats from WHO)

One out of three American adults are already informal eldercare providers for family members. (That translates to an astounding 65 million people.) According to the AARP, if such care were “paid” rather than “free” it would be a $375B industry. That is a lot of human “resources” being consumed by the elderly.

The aging population has even more impact on current resources. For example, emergency services are often used by elders for social interaction. Some will actually dial 911 not because they have a medical emergency but because they need some human interaction. That, of course, ties up emergency services that are needed for… emergencies.

That fact opened the door to an interesting question. What if social networking tools like Facebook or Twitter could be used to give seniors social support and a sense of purpose? Could they reduce the “social attention” calls to 911? Could they alleviate the seeming epidemic of loneliness and isolation so many seniors feel?

Eric has a personal interest in seeing Intel help seniors and those who care for them. His 94 year old grandmother Mimi tripped over her oxygen tank and fell, breaking her pelvis. Through a medical error during her first night in the hospital her broken pelvis was made even worse and she was given Tylenol for the pain. Unfortunately she was allergic to Tylenol and died as a result.

And there is more. What if there was a way to eliminate medication errors and remind seniors what medications to take and when to take them?

In other words, can technology play a role in freeing emergency resources, reducing medical errors and increasing the quality of life for seniors? In short- yes.

For example, we were told about Alex. Alex is a retired Scottish mine worker in his 70s. He suffers from COPD, “breathing problems” and “chest tightness”. As a case-study, Intel developed technology that can “place-shift” his medical support at home. Now, when Alex thinks he might be having a health crisis the automated service asks him a series of questions and accesses whether there is an actual medical emergency it is something far less emergent such as his forgetting to use his inhaler or he is feeling lonely and stressed.

Another example: Barbara suffers memory loss from Alzheimer’s. Due to her embarrassment over not knowing who is on the other end of the phone or at the door she has increasingly put herself into a self-imposed exile. This, in turn, caused her to become depressed. Not a good combination! Mix in the fact that, due to the disease she forgets how to do simple tasks and you have someone at significant risk.

Intel has tried a number of things to increase the quality of Barbara’s life and, in the process, minimize the medical risks with which she deals. For example, they have developed a phone ID system that shows Barbara not only who is calling, but also her relationship to and last contact with the caller. In addition, the system includes notes from prior interactions that have been entered by Barbara or the other person. In this way the technology works to compensate for Barbara’s memory issues and, in the process, reduce her sense of embarrassment and the resulting isolation.

Intel is also working to prevent issues by, for example, developing gait analysis programs which will observe elders’ normal gait and be able to recognize and respond when a fall might be about to occur.

They are also working on a robotic walker that will interact with senior who need help. Early results have been impressive.

There is no time like the present to change the future of healthcare. But what does Intel bring to this space? With its history of innovation, Intel has the knowledge and experience to connect people and information in new ways. At Intel this innovation starts and ends with real people. Eric will share insights from the team of Intel social scientists that travels the world, conducting ethnographic research from hospitals to homes to help understand people’s lives and identify unmet needs that technology might address.

Eric’s challenge to Intel is to find a way to use disruptive technologies to “place shift” and “skill shift” care so that 50% of the services and case currently provided in institutions can be done safely and effectively in the home within 10 years.

Care Innovations

Innovation Open House

Finally we had a chance to see Intel’s “technology innovations that are in some stage of active research or development [that] have the potential to change how we live, work and play.

We watched a demonstration on real time body tracking that has possible retail applications. Using a large screen and a Microsoft Kinect, an avatar was created that resembles the person standing in front of the “eye”. The avatar, a perfect match for the person’s body type, then let the individual “try on” various fashions without you ever having to enter a dressing room. The whole thing seemed very “Total Recall” actually. Pretty cool huh?

We also saw some of the next generation products that will be offered by Care Innovations QuietCare, a GE/Intel collaboration. We saw some products that are currently available as well as next gen models that are 3-4 years out. These included wireless pill bottles that can tell when a pill has or hasn’t been taken. It can even alert people that it is time to take a pill or let a relative know that their elder had missed taking their medication.

We also saw a walker that helps predict developing medical issues and a sensor that measures a patient’s gait. Such products are currently in the research phase, but intel is working with GE to get them to the market as quickly as possible.

The goal of all these technologies is to allow people to remain independent, confident and comfortable in their own homes for as long as possible.

Ms. Joya Chatterjee –  Education Markets Platform Group – Intel Education Service Corps

Joya is responsible for worldwide market development and “1:1 eLearning deployment programs” in the Education Markets Platform Group. Joya’s experience includes 20 years in the US education system (kindergarten teacher through Assistant Superintendent of Schools) and 12+ years in high technology marketing working for HP, Intel and SUN. Joya has been recognized as a pioneer in implementing technology with a fully networked school, trained staff and an implementing a K-8 technology curriculum which she wrote. This resulted in a Blue Ribbon award and recognition at the White House from President Bill Clinton.

Two years ago, Intel launched the Intel Education Service Corps, a program that enables talented Intel employees from all over the world to travel to developing countries to work with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to support the deployment of Intel-powered classmate PCs for disadvantaged children – the Intel version of the U.S. Peace Corps.


Intel is putting a significant amount of their resources (1 billion dollars worldwide) into education because they know how important it is to technologically empower the next generation.

Joya showed us a rubberized personal laptop that allows kids to learn and play. They are available now and are already in school systems in Brazil, Macedonia and Argentina.

Joya and her teammate Julia wanted to find a way to empower not only the students in underdeveloped countries, but also their teachers. The result was that, with the support of local organizations, Intel now sends employees on “sabbaticals” to developing countries to help advance education through technology.

In Egypt, they partnered with CARE at an all girl school where they worked with 1200 students, teaching them basic computing skills.

In Bolivia a partnership with Save the Children resulted in grade school students who had never seen a computer spending two days learning about them.

In Bangladesh they teach girls HIV prevention, how to use Skype, how to write a resume, how to make a living writing someone else’s resume.

I was interested to learn that much of the world is not as “eye-hand coordinated as we are the US. In practical terms this results in students having a difficult time using a mouse. With Save the Children Intel spent days working with 600 students. They trained 8 of the older students to be teachers. They, in turn, taught their classmates. As Romena, one of the 8 student-teachers in Bangladesh, said “You have opened doors for me. Now I don’t have to be a servant, I can be a teacher.”

There are many more examples. And with each story I was more and more impressed by Intel’s commitment to opening doors and showing the next generation all of the possibilities that technology makes available to them.

So what was my main “take-away” from my time with Intel? Quite simply this: Intel is into much more than just making chips.


Disclosure: My travel and lodging expenses for this conference were covered by Intel.

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22 replies

  1. For me the health care innovations in elder care are the most exciting. I know so many elderly people who could benefit.

    • the most important part about intel’s advancements are that they’re providing Green processing power. We know that heavy processors consume alot of power, and especially on load, but intel is making their proccessors more powerful, yet consuming lower amounts of energy.. Intel recycles and makes use of their older equipment, so this way they’re reducing their carbon footprint. They’re taking us forward with minimal destruction to the world, so that generations to come may see the trees that we saw, feel the water come up to their feet from the beach , and enjoy earth in all its beauty. They’ve also introduced what we term as “folding” instead of those idle consumer supercomputers doing nothing, they put them to use for Labs and research work, so they dont have to waste their funds, as well use more electricity for their own researches.
      Usually super computers are big and high power consumption, but with intel, you can make the most out of it using multi processors and multi graphic cards so to achieve supercomputer like results..

      Secondly i also think that they’re doing good for the elderly people, but creating such solutions that help them around the house, for daily tasks, and for emergencies. They help those who are disabled, and the elderly with weak memory, to remind and help them remember people and what they were doing..

      I have also tweeted it here at:!/ryandigweed0/status/95886861603573760

  2. I find the “Progress through Processors” initiative interesting because it makes use of otherwise idle computing power to help do research. While programs like this aren’t new, it’s helpful to have a company like Intel backing it.

  3. The medical and educational innovations are very important, and should be encouraged and supported, but the most interesting to me personally are the automotive. It really made me think about how I interact with my car, and what someone would take away from looking at what “lives” in my car, and how I interact with it.

    My mom came to visit, and when I picked her up at the airport, she said that it looked like I could run NASA from the drivers seat!

    I spend a ton of time in my car, so there are no fewer than 3 chargers plugged in at all times, so I can keep everything topped up, and cables looping all over – a better way to manage all of that would be awesome, maybe like inductive charging built in so I don’t need all the wires?

    There are also usually half a dozen half empty water bottles rolling around on the floor, until the next time I get gas, when I empty them in the windshield washer fluid tank, and leave the bottles for the people who seem to hang around the gas stations here to collect bottles and cans for recycling.

    And then there is all the “little” stuff that most people seem to have – the flashlight, extra medications, pen, paper, wads of napkins for the next “oops” moment, change, multitool and of course, mints or gum. The glovebox can barely be closed and the center console is jammed with stuff – a thought out way to keep track of that stuff, and keeping it reasonably accessible for the driver, without fumbling through a dark hole on the opposite side of the car would be great! I think we have moved way past the point where the glove box actually held your gloves and your owners manual and maybe some kleenex.

  4. I find most interesting the medical stuff Intel is working on. I work at a Home health agency so I can see how care for our aging population can and should get better.

    I retweeted this post here too:!/lloydviente/status/93971787720826880

  5. As a person who studies people, I was amused by the study of what people keep in their cars and why. I can totally relate to the guy who carries plastic bags for his vomiting friends. I think what you carry in your car reflects what matters to you most. Whether its the bible, like that one person or the bat in the trunk for protection. These are the individual things that you focus on. However, I might suggest the bat guy relocate his bat to the back seat…I mean just in case.

  6. I found the work by Dr. Eric Dishman to be both the most interesting and the most influential. Although virtually trying on clothes, increasing the technological functionality of cars, et cetera will all make headlines, they are mere indulgences, appealing to our desires rather than our needs. Detecting a potential fall before one occurs could save people’s lives, and the shear simplicity of the Alzheimer’s-inspired telephone allows afflicted individuals to maintain part of their lives they would otherwise have lost. Technology produces great entertainment, but improving the quality of life is by far its greatest use.

  7. I thought the most interesting thing was about the eldercare, specifically helping elderly people take their medications on time. A blogger whose site I read just posted that his mom had to move into assisted care living because she was having several problems living alone, one of the biggest being that she wasn’t taking her medications on time.

    This could help a lot of elderly people keep their independence.

  8. The thing I thought was most interesting was seeing how much power my appliances might be wasting. Seems like a good way to save money!

  9. I retweeted this: @arebelspy

  10. Whoops, wrong link. I retweeted it @alicatolson

  11. I think the “Progress through Processors” initiative is quite interesting because it allows for the ‘crowdsourcing’ of computing power. I’m familiar with distributed computing through programs such as Folding@home, so seeing a large company like Intel backing this type of project is great. I’d love to see what projects it can be used for in the future.


  12. I thought the medical products by Care Innovations QuietCare are very impressive. Alerting people when they need to take medications is great for elderly people (and for people of all ages).!/LindaHP/status/95661307616956416

  13. Tough to choose just one as they’re all quite interesting but I guess if I have to choose one I’d learn toward environmental footprint / Eco-Technology Innovation. It’s something we can all do without much effort and little bit of thought.

    Great article Judie

  14. As a person who lived on Peru until very recently, I think that Intel’s effort for worldwide knowledge, with all the teachings in Egypt and Bolivia very important and interesting. I know that there is a lot of untapped potential over there, and only by sending one of the big guys, in this case Intel, over there will people realize that a lot of things can be done.

    I retweeted this post:!/MarioBrotha1/status/96058523657580546

  15. While I thought the most current useful things that Intel is doing was the medical technology stuff (care innovations) and being more green through solar panels, recycling, etc… I thought that the most interesting thing was the Interactions and Experience Research. Maybe they don’t have a use yet for the data being collected about people’s cars and habits and use of technology, but I think it will be interesting to see where it goes ultimately. Even if it all ends up not going anywhere, I am still glad they are doing it.


  1. A Recap of Upgrade Your Life III