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IDF Day 1: Craig Barrett Keynote: "Inspiring Innovation"
Date: Aug 19, 2008
Author: Daniel A. Begun
IDF 2008 - Craig Barrett Keynote
Craig Barrett highlights social responsibility as the key to technology innovation

This year's IDF kicked off in typical fashion with Pat Gelsinger, Intel Senior Vice President and General Manager, Digital Enterprise Group, taking the stage and giving a brief overview of what the event has to offer over the course of the next three days, including highlighting key speakers (the Woz on Thursday!), contributors, and sponsors.
Gelsinger equated the childhood book series Where's Waldo with trying to figure out where in the world Intel Chairman, Craig Barrett might be at any given moment. As to "Where in the world is Craig Barrett," the answer could easily be any one of over 30 countries, where Gelsinger suggested that Barrett has become the chief ambassador for the IT industry. Apparently, Barrett has been on every continent except Antarctica. This served as the segue to play a video the explored the themes of Barrett's keynote speech: "Inspiring Innovation." The video touched upon how technology and innovation can improve people's lives.

Barrett hit the stage and quickly informed the crowd that he's been in the industry longer than many of the participants in the audience have been alive--about 40 years. Barrett commented on how Moore's Law from 1965 still applies over 40 years later and that current predictions see it applying for another 15 years.


Barrett sees the current responsibility of technology to not just stimulate how we work and play, but to also stimulate education and the economy. He says that technology now has a direct impact on the world's population--especially developing countries--in terms of improving healthcare and education.

As an example of how technology has impacted the world, at the time of the first IDF (with an attendance of only about 200 people--about half of them press), Intel had worked with Sandia Labs to built the first teraflop computer. That computer was made up of 9,200 processors and occupied hundreds of square feet. Today, teraflop processing exists on a single chip. As another example of change, Barrett says that there are more Internet users in China than there are people in the U.S.

Following World War II, the predominate manufacturing powers were the U.S., Western Europe, and Japan. But after the Cold War ended in the late 80's and early 90's, other countries and regions got increasingly involved in the world stage, such as India, China, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. Barrett says that this represents three to four billion new participants in the world economy. People with lower standards of living, who make lower wages, are now participating. In order for them to participate, grow, and compete on the world stage, however, they have to know how to use and understand technology. This is what Barrett refers to as the "human element."
The Human Element
This human element can help improve education, healthcare, economic development, and even communications with citizens. But it requires educating the workforce. You need the right environment for innovation. Barrett says he sees that all over the world now, except for one place--the U.S. He says that the U.S. doesn't focus enough on education and innovation. He is dismayed that the U.S. government doesn't invest in R&D as so many other countries do for future competitiveness.

So what is the right formula for innovation according to Mr. Barrett?
  • Smart people
  • A good education system
  • Smarts investments in R&D
  • The right environment for collaboration
  • The right tax rates and regulations
Barrett says that IT is a key aspect of competitiveness. You need access to technology, hardware, software, and connectivity. You need the broadband capability to support rich content. You need localized content (farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa don’t care about Wall Street). You need to enable citizens to interact with their governments. Barrett says it all starts with education. He says that 85 percent of the world's population are in emerging economies. It is through opportunities offered through education that enable individuals to participate in a free economic system.

Barrett says that every country he visited recognized the importance of raising the quality of education. It's not just about raising money either. He says that if could put only one thing into a classroom, it would be a good teacher. While technology helps, the key is how you intelligently use the technology--and that is part of the value that a good teacher provides.


Barrett welcomed a "bright star of innovation" to the stage, Dr. Johnny Chung Lee, and expert in computer-human interfaces. Lee demonstrated a low-cost ($50) electronic white board using existing technology. With a Wii remote, a PC, a projector, and an IR pen, Lee demonstrated his concept projected onto a piece of white foam core (any flat white surface should suffice). The software is available for download for free from Lee's Website. He also demonstrated another use for the technology with a physics simulation program that even supported multi-touch tracking with multiple IR pens. Lee's purpose to was to demonstrate that people can do these sorts of things themselves. His advice to the crowd was: always share your work; and if you don't become overly obsessed with performance, you can see dramatic savings in cost with little compromise in functionality. Lee says that over 600,000 people have downloaded his software and that a number of teachers and students are using it in their classrooms and projects.
Barrett also touched up economic development when he invited Kiva.org founder, Matt Flannery to the stage. Kiva.org takes a new approach to microfinancing by taking it online. Kiva is a Swahili word meaning unity. Anyone can sign on to Kiva to provide loans to applicants. Kiva provides a loan on an average of every 30 seconds. The average loan is $500. Kiva is a network connecting world economies with the economies of people in need. The biggest challenge to this model is that applicants need to have access to technology. Flannery's advice to the crowd is to take your skills and apply them to something you care about--this is how you can make a difference.


Barrett says much of this connectivity is coming in form of WiMax, which he claims performs significantly above that of current 3G connections. He says that there will be 50 million users connecting via WiMax by the end of this year, and one billion by 2012.


Barrett also talked about how technological innovation can help healthcare. It is difficult to deliver healthcare to many developing countries. There are often not enough doctors, especially in more rural communities. A solution here lies in telemedicine. And he literally means "tele" as in telephone. (Here he also lamented that today doctors in the U.S. are not reimbursed by insurance when they interact with their patients using a 135-year old technology: the telephone.) A radiologist from Columbia joined Barrett on stage. They demonstrated a smart card that has a barcode on it that contains an individual's basic health records. An emergency responder can get essential medical information from an accident victim (Barrett momentarily laid down on the stage, pretending to be a motorcycle accident victim). With the push of a button on a device reading the card, a patient's primary care physician can be notified.


Barrett next launched a video conference with his two primary care physicians in India (via WiMax on the Indian side). They discussed a system in India where anyone can call a national phone number (104, similar to the U.S.'s 911 system) to speak with doctors, paramedics, or psychologists at a contact center who can counsel them over the phone. Barrett says the next step is real-time broadband access to enable remote diagnostics.


Barrett's next topic to tackle was energy. He mentioned how UPS has installed GPS trackers on all of its trucks, which use software to efficiently advise on delivery routes to help save fuel costs. He said that technological innovation can play a big factor in energy distribution and efficiency, such as with solar, wind, and other alternative energy sources. Barrett brought out "the next Michael Phelps of the technology world," third-place finisher, Brian McCarthy, of the Intel Science Talent Search award. McCarthy spoke a bit about his project where he was developing solar cells based on plastics, instead of silicon. His goal is to produce solar cells that are more efficient, cost less to produce, and reduce carbon emissions.

In his summary, Barrett shared a saying with the audience: "A small deed done is better than a great deed planned." He wanted to provide an opportunity to people to do great small deeds. As such, he used his keynote to mention Intel's "Inspire-Empower Challenge." where four $100K awards will be given out at next year's IDF in the areas of "education, healthcare, economic development, and the environment." "The Challenge is designed to inspire developers, individuals, and organizations to innovate and empower them to deliver new ways to apply technology to these issues." The award monies will go towards projects devoted to implementing the winning ideas.
More IDF 2008 Coverage at HotHardware:
IDF Day 1: Pat Gelsinger Keynote: Embedded + Dynamic + Visual
IDF Day 1: David Perlmutter: "Where Will 'On-the-Go' Go?"
IDF Day 2: Anand Chandrasekher: "MIDs: Platform for Innovation"
IDF Day 2: Eric Kim: "We Love TV"
IDF Day 2: Renee James: "Developing for the Future of Computing" 

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