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To help save the planet, tech goes green

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by Peter Krass on 09/24/2020
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Can tech save the environment? With wildfires burning through California and the Pacific Northwest, storms flooding the Gulf Coast, and record-high temperatures scorching the Southwest, that would be great.

Okay, tech may not be able to actually solve all those problems. But tech companies increasingly want to be part of the solution, not the problem.

This week alone, HP introduced 3 notebook PCs made with recycled and recyclable materials. Microsoft committed itself to a “water positive” future. And Accenture asserted that moving to the public cloud can help clean the air.

HP’s greener notebooks

HP this week introduced its first consumer notebooks using post-consumer-recycled and ocean-bound plastics: the HP Pavilion 13, Pavilion 14 and Pavilion 15.

HP Pavilion 13

HP Pavilion 13: less plastic in the sea

HP estimates that its use of these materials will prevent some 92,000 plastic bottles from being tossed into oceans and landfills. That’s a lot of plastic,

In addition, the boxes the devices ship in will be 100% sustainably sourced and also be recyclable.

All 3 of these new HP devices are set to begin shipping in October with retail prices starting at about $580.

Microsoft: cleaner water

More than 2 billion people worldwide lack access to clean drinking water, according to the United Nations. Microsoft wants to do something about it.

The company this week announced a new commitment to be “water positive” for its director operations by 2030. This means the company will replenish more water than it uses.

Microsoft plans to do this in 2 ways. First, by reducing its “water use intensity” – a measure of water used per megawatt of energy utilized by its operations. Second, Microsoft plans to replenish water in the water-stressed regions it operates in.

Microsoft also says it will invest in water-related projects, including wetlands restoration and the removal of asphalt and other impervious materials. To get started, the company has already identified 40 water-stressed basins around the world where it has operations.

One big effort involves the company’s new Silicon Valley campus, scheduled to open later this year. The campus will feature an on-site rainwater collection system and waste-treatment plant. By recycling water on the campus, Microsoft hopes to save 4.3 million gallons of water a year.

Accenture: the cloud is green

Migration to the public cloud could reduce global carbon-dioxide emissions by nearly 60 million tons a year, a roughly 6% reduction in IT emissions, according to a report published this week by consultants Accenture.

This air-cleaning effect would be equivalent to removing 22 million cars from the roads, adds the Accenture report, “The Green Behind the Cloud.”

CEOs seem to be on board. In Accenture’s own recent survey of large-company CEOs, virtually all (99%) said they agree that sustainability issues are important to the future success of their businesses.

And Accenture is walking the walk. The company now runs fully 95% of its applications in the cloud.

Okay, tech alone may not be able to fix the environment. But by supporting these and other “going green” tech companies, you and your customers can certainly help.

 

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Meet Intel's new processors for edge computing

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by Peter Krass on 09/23/2020
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Intel, already the market leader in PC and server processors, now wants to also be a powerhouse in edge computing.

Intel today introduced processors designed for edge computing with features supporting the Internet of Things (IoT), AI and security.

The timing looks good. While the definition of “edge computing” isn’t always clear, it generally refers to IT infrastructure and services outside the data center. However you define it, the edge is growing fast. Market watcher IDC expects edge computing sales to grow 12.5% a year on average through 2024, for total worldwide sales that year of $250.6 billion.

“Edge products and services are powering the next wave of digital transformation,” says Dave McCarthy, IDC’s research director for edge strategies. 

Further, IDC predicts that by 2024, nearly half (46%) of all edge spending will go to services. Roughly a third (32%) will go to hardware. And slightly more than a fifth (22%) will go to software.

Edge processors

It’s that hardware piece that Intel has aimed its sights on. Intel today introduced new processors and capabilities for 3 of its CPU lines: 11th Gen Core, Atom x6000E series, and Pentium/Celeron N and J series.

Intel says its new processors can support edge-computing use cases in industries including manufacturing, retail, banking, hospitality, healthcare and smart cities.

The Atom x6000E series is new. Codenamed “Elkhart Lake,” these are 10nm processors and Intel’s first CPU platform enhanced specifically for IoT.

Intel says that compared with earlier Atom processors, the x6000E series deliver improvements including up to 2x better 3D graphics, and enhanced I/O and storage. The processors also meet strict functional safety requirements with a new feature called Intel Safety Island, which orchestrates on-chip diagnostics, reports errors and monitors customer-safety applications.

The Pentium and Celeron N and J series, employing much of the same technology, range from a CPU frequency of 1.2 GHz to 1.8 GHz in high-frequency mode, and CPU bursts in Turbo mode of up to 3.0 GHz.

Both the new Atom and Pentium/Celeron processors support a range of embedded operating systems: Windows 10 IoT Enterprise, Ubuntu Linux, Wind River Linux and Android 10.

Tiger Lake, too

Adding to the 11th gen Core mobile processors introduced earlier this month, Intel today introduced new versions of the Tiger Lake U3 CPU for embedded and industrial markets. In all, there are 6 new SKUs, including i3, i5 and i7 models.

These CPUs feature new dual-video decode boxes which allow the processor to ingest up to 40 simultaneous video streams at 1080p 30 frames per second and output up to either 4 channels of 4K video or 2 channels of 8K video. There are also AI-inferencing algorithms that can run on up to 96 graphic execution units or on the CPU with vector neural network instructions (VNNI) built in.

No company is an island, and Intel isn’t working on edge computing alone. In fact, Intel says it has more than 1,200 partners focused on edge computing, including such big names as Accenture, Bosch, ExxonMobil and Verizon. The company also says more than 15,000 customers — including Audi, Lenovo and Rakuten Mobile — have already deployed edge computing systems with Intel tech.

Explore Intel at the edge:

> Platform brief: Atom X6000E series; Pentium/Celeron N and J series (PDF)

> Platform brief: 11th Gen Intel Core processors (PDF)

> Editorial: Intel fuels the edge today with expanded tech, customer deployments

 

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Polish your data center skills with Intel Partner University

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by Peter Krass on 09/22/2020
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Are you keeping your data center skills relevant and up to date?

Now’s a good time to do this. And Intel Partner University is a great place to do it.

If you’re new to Intel Partner University, it’s a training platform for Intel partners. Intel Partner University offers a variety of formats from its vast library, including videos, on-demand training and webinars. You can gain access to these trainings anywhere, anytime and on any device. And for all Intel Partners, it’s free.

Intel Partner University

One cool feature of Intel Partner University is Competencies. These offerings help you go beyond the basics to expand your expertise and gain in-depth knowledge of Intel technologies, products and solutions. Some Competencies are designed for technical workers; others, for business people.

Members of select tiers of the Partner program can also receive digital Badges. After completing a Competency, you can display these Badges on your website, promo emails, social media and elsewhere to demonstrate your verified expertise. And these Badges are available for both technical and business tracks.

6 Competencies

So how can you tap into Intel Partner University to keep your data center skills relevant and up to date? With any (or all) of these 6 competencies:

> HPC on Intel: This Competency on high-performance computing offers 5 core courses for a total of 4.25 hours. Courses cover high performance computing workloads, performance, software and critical implementations. Elective courses include HPC for education, HPC for manufacturing, and the convergence of HPC and AI.

> Cloud Infrastructure on Intel: This technical competency will help you gain insights from Intel experts on topics that include hybrid and multicloud, the benefits of software-defined infrastructure, and network transformation from cloud to edge. There’s a total of 4.25 hours worth of training here from 5 core courses.

> Intel Optane Technology - Data Center Technical: Do you have customers that need to accelerate applications, reduce transaction costs and improve overall Data Center efficiency? Intel Optane technology can solve these issues. This Competency is designed for technicians, engineers and solution architects. It offers 6.5 hours of courses, including an introduction to Intel Optane technology, the basics of solid-state storage devices (SSDs), and an introduction to Intel Optane persistent memory.

> Intel Optane Technology - Data Center Business: This competency also covers Intel Optane tech, but it’s designed for salespeople, marketers, technologists and IT professionals. The 6.5 hours of trainings include an introduction to Intel Optane data center technology, a sales guide to Intel Optane data center SSDs, and a sales guide to Intel Optane persistent memory.

> AI Foundations: Artificial intelligence is fast becoming a mainstream technology. This Competency is designed for sales and technical salespeople, biz-dev managers and marketing pros. In its 5.5 hours of courses, you’ll increase your foundational knowledge of AI, learn how to drive AI opportunities, and learn why your customers don’t need a GPU for deep training.

> AI at the Edge: Combine AI with the Internet of Things, and you can change the way your customers get work done. This Competency is aimed at people in sales and pre-sales, marketers, technologists and IT professionals. Its 4.25 hours of courses include a look at OpenVINO, Intel’s Vision Accelerator Design Products, and the Intel Neural Compute Stick 2.

> FPGA Fundamentals: Field-programmable gate array technology lets customers and designers configure integrated circuits after they’ve been manufactured. This Competency will help you build the foundation for working with FPGA architectures, tools and resources. The nearly 6 hours of trainings include an introduction to the Intel FPGA Deep Learning Acceleration Suite, an FPGA introduction for software developers, and the basics of programmable logic.

Use this time to keep your data center skills up-to-date and relevant. Check out Intel Partner University today.

 

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In the Zone

The 5 hottest tech trends of 2020 (so far)

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by Peter Krass on 09/18/2020
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In a year that’s been like no other, the tech world has been tested like never before.

Given a global pandemic, horrible floods and wildfires, and some serious political turmoil, the industry’s response has been pretty good.

Zoom, Teams, Skype, et al.? They work surprisingly well. Working from home? It’s mostly okay. Tech stock prices? They’re strictly stratospheric.

So here’s our short list of the year’s 5 hottest tech trends so far:

1. Coronavirus pandemic

Back in March, when the lockdown began, nearly all (97%) organizations canceled their work-related travel, found a survey of HR execs conducted by Gartner. Most organizations also responded to the coronavirus pandemic by cutting costs, Gartner found. Seven in 10 said their main cost-cutting tactic would be to make more effective use of their technology.

However, some organizations also cut back on their IT spend. In April, market watcher IDC predicted that the pandemic would cause IT spending worldwide to drop by nearly 3% this year.

That said, some technologies have benefited. Chromebooks and laptops makers can’t keep up with the demand, and their devices are often out of stock. And of course there’s the zooming growth of Zoom. No one saw that coming.

2. Working from home

The idea that technology could enable working from home isn’t new. But the pandemic gave it a big push.

When the lockdown began, nearly 9 in 10 organizations either encouraged or required their employees to work from home, according to the Gartner survey of HR execs.

Working from home

By July, that talk was translating into action. Nearly 7 in 10 managers were working from home; about 1 in 5 were working sometimes in the office, sometimes from home; and only 7% were working solely in the office. That’s according to an American Management Association survey of its members.

And how was it going? Well, the same survey found that about 6 in 10 respondents believed they were adequately prepared to work from home. Just 1 in 5 called working from home a challenge. But nearly half (46%) said working at home was hurting their productivity and ability to get work done. Ouch.

3. Insider cybersecurity threats

All that working from home also creates new security risks. One big one is phishing attacks on unsuspecting workers. Click on a bad link in a malicious email, and you could be opening your entire organization to a ransomware attack.

No surprise, then, that many IT leaders worry about insider security breaches. But what is surprising is that they’re not doing much to stop these attacks.

So found a survey of more than 500 IT directors, conducted by UK security provider Egress.

Nearly every respondent (97%) to the survey said they’re significantly concerned about insider threats. Three-quarters even believe some insiders have put data at risk intentionally.

Cyberattack

So what are these IT directors doing about it? Not much, the survey found.

Fewer than half use either email encryption or secure collaboration tools. And nearly 6 in 10 say that for alerts on internal data breaches, they rely solely on employee reporting. Talk about the fox guarding the henhouse.

4. Smart speakers

How popular are smart speakers? Very. After all, we’re all stuck at home, nearly all the time.

Nearly one in four (24%) Americans over the age of 18 now owns a smart speaker, found a survey of U.S. adults conducted by NPR and Edison Research. That puts the total population of smart speakers in U.S. households at some 157 million devices.

Amazon Echo Dot

That number is up from 119 million devices a year ago … and up from 67 million devices two years ago. In other words, the number of smart speakers has more than doubled in just two years. Wow.

5. Digital transformation

Okay, “digital transformation” is a buzzword, and okay, no one agrees on exactly what it means. But however you want to define it, digital transformation is on an upward trajectory.

Nearly one third of U.S. executives working at organizations with annual revenue of $100 million to $1 billion said the coronavirus pandemic has given them an additional impetus for digital transformation projects. That’s according to a survey of 400 execs conducted by embedded-software supplier Wind River.

When asked which technologies they plan to invest in, respondents pointed to 5G (cited by 63%), container-based development (38%) and cloud-based application development (35%).

And there you have our pick for the 5 hottest tech trends of the year so far. Hang in there — just 3 1/2 more months, and this annus horribilis will take its final bow.

 

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In the Zone

HP adds PC devices for today’s hybrid work world

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by Peter Krass on 09/17/2020
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It’s becoming clear that the pandemic will be with us for some time. That’s changing the way people work, go to school, watch movies and much more. It’s also changing the kinds of PC devices your customers are looking for.

To meet this changing need, HP yesterday introduced a range of PC devices designed specifically for today’s hybrid work setups. In all, there are 6 new PCs and 3 new monitors.

“With workspaces at home becoming the status quo and businesses supporting their workforce both remotely and back in the office, the PC is essential,” said Andy Rhodes, HP’s global head of commercial personal systems.

HP introduced the devices this week at its 2020 HP Reinvent partner event, which this year was held virtually. Here’s a quick look at what’s new from HP:

ProBook

HP has added 3 models to this line of laptops: ProBook 635 Aero G7, ProBook 600 G8 PC, and ProBook 400 G8 PC.

The new 635 Aero G7 is a light (approx. 2.2 lb.) laptop powered by an AMD Ryzen 4000 processor and equipped with built-in Wi-Fi 6 and 4G LTE connectivity. In a sign of the times, HP says the device can withstand 1,000 cycles of disinfection with household wipes. Shipments are set for November; prices have not yet been announced.

HP ProBook 635 Aero G7

HP ProBook 635 Aero G7

The ProBook 600 G8 and 400 G8 are both powered with the latest 11th gen Intel Core processors, up to the i7, and they’re designed for business pros who will be working sometimes from home, sometimes from the office. These laptops — available in a choice of 13-, 14- and 15-inch displays — will both commence shipping in November. The 600 weighs 2.8 lb. and has a starting retail price of just under $1,170, while the 400 weighs 2.8 lb., and its retail price starts at about $730.

EliteDesk 805

These are small form-factor desktops have been designed for users who will be working solely from home, and who need to conserve space. There are 2 new models:

The HP EliteDesk 805 G6 Desktop Mini PC makes the most of tight spaces. It will begin shipping in November with retail prices starting at about $940. As this photo shows, the PC can be attached to the terminal’s stand:

HP EliteDesk 805

The HP EliteDesk 805 G6 Small Form Factor appears to be pretty similar, but with an AMD processor and the ability to handle two M.2 drives. Shipments are set to begin in October, and retail prices will start at about $930.

Both devices operate quietly, too, thanks to a feature called HP Run Quiet Design acoustics.

ProDesk

HP has not provided much in the way of details on the HP ProDesk 405 G6 Series. But it has said the device will be powered by an AMD Ryzen Pro processor, so that's something. This desktop PC will ship in November, with retail prices starting at about $650.

Monitors

With everyone now endlessly on Zoom, Teams, Skype, etc., HP is offering 2 of what it calls “conferencing monitors.”

These monitors, the HP E24d and HP E27d, each include an integrated webcam, mic and attached speaker bar. These kinds of items are hard to get right now, so your users should appreciate having them as part of the package. Also included is a dock that lets the user attach their laptop and other essentials with a single USB-C cable.

Both monitors will ship in October. The E24d will retail for $369, and the E27d, for about $500.

HP E27d Conferencing Monitor

HP E27d Conferencing Monitor

HP also introduced the HP E24t G4 FHD Touch Monitor. I have no idea what “E24t G4” refers to, but FHD means full high-def. HP also says the color accuracy is high, thanks to a feature known as HP Eye Ease. Shipments don’t start until December, and the retail price has been set at just under $350.

 

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Research roundup: Data to cloud, holiday shopping online, robocalls drop, CISOs complain

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by Peter Krass on 09/16/2020
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Databases are moving to the cloud. Consumers are moving online. Robocalls are fading. And CISOs are complaining.

That’s some of the latest tech research. And here’s your tech provider’s roundup:

Data warehouses, databases shift to the cloud

The cloud is proving useful for a lot more than just storing big files. The new trend among enterprise IT managers is using the cloud for databases and analytics data.

So finds a new survey conducted by MariaDB Corp. of nearly 560 enterprise engineering and IT pros in the U.S., UK, France and Germany. More than half (52%) of the respondents said they’re moving databases to the cloud. And almost as many (43%) said they’re moving analytics to the cloud.

The results show a “hunger for cloud data warehouses and database services that eliminate manual operations by automating tasks such as installs, upgrades and backups,” says MariaDB chief marketing officer Franz Aman.

When asked to identify the three most important trends for next year and beyond, nearly half (46%) the respondents named database automation. Other hot trends, the respondents predict, will be moving databases to the cloud (44%) and multicloud becoming a reality (40%).

Holiday shopping moves online

In a year in which nothing seems normal, you can now add holiday shopping. More than 6 in 10 U.S. consumers say that during the coming holiday season, they’ll shop 100% online. And 7 in 10 consumers say they’re highly likely to purchase only from brands that can demonstrate they understand consumers’ needs.

These are among the findings of a survey recently conducted for Redpoint Global, a provider of customer-experience software. The survey garnered responses from more than 1,000 U.S. consumers.

“The commerce habits of virtually every consumer were dramatically changed in 2020,” says Redpoint chief marketing and strategy officer John Nash. Retailers that use real-time data to understand individual consumer preferences, he adds, “will be much more successful in securing consumer spend.”

More specifically, nearly half (49%) of respondents said they will be more likely this holiday season to shop only with retailers that offer personalized contend and offers. However, the survey also finds that irrelevant offers are a major source of consumer frustration, so retailers will need to get this right.

Robocall volume drops

Wondering if anything good has come out of the pandemic? Here’s one: Unwanted robocalls were down 15% in the first half of this year.

That’s according to Transaction Network Services (TNS), which offers services to some 500 telecom providers. Twice a year, it surveys robocall trends, drawing from its customers’ 1+ billion calls.

But wait: The war against robocalls hasn’t been won quite yet. In fact, more than 100 billion unwanted calls were made in the last year, TNS estimates.

Phone scams are on the rise, too. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission reported nearly 127,000 fraud incidents related to the coronavirus pandemic in just the first half of this year, resulting in losses of about $70 million. Old people are special targets. TNC estimates that about 9 in 10 seniors get at least 1 robocall a week.

Also, with the U.S. presidential elections coming in November, TNC expects robocalls from the campaign teams to increase dramatically. Caller ID to the rescue!

CISOs struggle with compliance

The life of a chief information security officer isn't easy. While CISOs must prepare for at least 3 audits in the next 6 to 12 months, many struggle with inadequate tools, limited budgets and personnel, and inefficient manual processes.

That’s according to a survey of 100 North American senior security execs. The survey was conducted in June by Shujinko, provider of a SaaS solution for compliance prep.

CISOs are desperate for more automation, the survey found. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of respondents said they want to improve the automation of their audit-preparation process. Automation was cited as the number one element most CISOs would change if they could.

They’re also discontent with their current setups. Two-thirds of the CISOs surveyed said they dislike their current tool set, which typically includes spreadsheets, homegrown scripts, and shared documents. The CISOs also complained that they have poor visibility into the audit process. And only 1 CISO out of 100 said their audit-prep process today completely aligns with the cloud.

 

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In the Zone

Meet HP’s new gaming gear — all wireless

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by Peter Krass on 09/15/2020
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Clutter isn’t cool. That’s the thinking behind HP’s newest wireless gear for gamers.

Announced today by HP are a new headset, mouse and keyboard for gaming PCs. All three devices use WARP Wireless Technology, based on an open-source platform for scalable and extensible wireless networks.

Even before the pandemic, gaming was hot. But now, with so many people stuck at home, gaming is even hotter. Microsoft and Sony are both expected to release new videogame consoles in time for the holidays. And HP’s own study, conducted earlier this year, finds that PC gamers are spending an average of at least 4 more hours a week on gaming than they were before the lockdown.

But there’s a catch. Although wireless gear helps to eliminate clutter, even HP admits that gamers have been reluctant to adopt these devices. Their main concerns: battery life, lag and overall quality.

HP claims its new devices will overcome all these objections, and more. Here’s the new lineup:

Omen Frequency Wireless Headset

This headset provides lag-free audio, so your gaming customers won’t miss a single explosion, car crash or ray-gun zap. It features 7.1 surround sound via C-Media Xear; battery life of up to 30 hours; USB-C charging; and a noise-canceling mic.

HP Omen Frequency Wireless Headset

This HP headset is wireless when used with a PC. But it also can connect with a wide range of gaming devices via an optional audio-only wired connection. These devices and OSes include Mac, iOS, Chrome, PlayStation 4 and 4 Pro, Xbox One and One X, and Nintendo Switch.

Shipments of this HP headset will begin in December with retail prices starting at about $170.

Omen Vector Wireless Mouse

Fully half of all gamers say they want a wireless mouse, according to an HP survey. Well, this is a good mouse for them. According to HP, it’s the fastest USB-C charging gaming mouse around.

How fast? Just 5 minutes of charging gets you a reasonable 10 hours of battery life. For a full charge, you’ll need 90 minutes — but that gets you up to 180 hours of battery life.

HP Omen Vector Wireless Mouse

Charging isn’t everything, of course. This mouse also promises lag-free gaming, courtesy of a command center that lets the user set the pointing device’s sensitivity, key binds and lighting. This mouse should be durable, too, as HP says its mechanical switch is good for 50 million clicks.

This HP mouse is available now; retail prices start at just under $100.

Omen Spacer Wireless TKL Keyboard

This gaming keyboard is compact, wireless, and also offers the option of wired mode. Battery life is promised at 75 hours of play, though just 5 minutes of USB-C charging gets you a decent 6 hours of battery life.

HP Omen Spacer Wireless TKL Keyboard

This keyboard also offers a magnetic, detachable palm rest for gaming marathons. And to block cybercrooks, the keyboard uses AES Standard 128-bit encryption.

HP is taking pre-orders for this wireless gaming keyboard now. Retail prices start just under $160.

Are your gaming customers looking for peripherals that are wireless and clutter-free? Tell them about these new HP Omen goodies.

 

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1 graphics architecture, 4 GPUs: Intel Xe unwrapped

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by Peter Krass on 09/11/2020
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While Intel’s Irix Xe graphics tech was a big part of the company’s recent introduction of the 11th gen “Tiger Lake” Core processors for mobile PCs, you should expect to see Intel Xe GPUs in a lot more places. That includes gaming laptops and data-center servers.

That’s because Xe is a new, highly scalable GPU architecture that’s actually the basis for 4 of what Intel is calling discrete “micro-architectures”: Xe LP, Xe HP, Xe HPC and Xe HPG. Here’s a look, courtesy of Intel, of how they line up:Xe GPU architecture chart

These Xe micro-architectures were revealed during Intel’s Architecture Day 2020 last month. But in light of Intel’s Tiger Lake announcement, made earlier this month, they make a lot more sense, and we can see how the puzzle pieces fit.

‘Pretty daunting’

During the Intel Architecture Day presentation, company chief architect Raja Koduri provided high-level details of the Xe micro-architectures.

At the start, Intel had set an ambitious goal of increasing performance per millimeter, per watt and per flop. “This,” said another Architecture Day speaker, Intel senior fellow David Blythe, “was a pretty daunting task.”

To get there, Intel opted to create an entirely new GPU architecture from the ground up. The designers created a 1.5-times larger engine offering up to 96 execution units (EUs).

The EUs were redesigned, too. Among other improvements, the number of vector lanes scheduled by an EU has been doubled from 8 to 16, according to Blythe.

4 ways to go

Here’s an overview of Intel Xe’s 4 microarchitectures, as outlined by Koduri during Intel Architecture Day 2020:

> Xe LP: This is the foundation GPU, optimized for graphics efficiency. It’s based on Intel’s 10nm SuperFin technology, used throughout the new Tiger Lake system-on-chips (SoCs).

Xe LP will be used in 3 products. The first, of course, is Tiger Lake, the mobile SoC introduced earlier this month. The second, codenamed DG1, is a GPU for mobile creators using thin and light laptops, and it’s expected to ship later this year. The third product, codenamed SG1, is a server GPU for the data center. It too is set to ship later this year.

> Xe HP: Scalability is the focus of this graphics micro-architecture for the data center.  Built on Intel 10nm Enhanced SuperFin technology, Xe HP is designed to be a media supercomputer on a PCIe card. It will be packaged in 1-tile, 2-tile and 4-tile versions. Intel is sampling these now with software developers and key customers, and it plans to ship products based on Xe HP next year.

> Xe HPG: A variant of Xe HP optimized for enthusiast gamers, it will offer, among other features, hardware-dedicated ray tracing. It’s built on processor technology from other companies and is now being tested in Intel’s labs. The company plans to ship products based on Xe HPG sometime next year.

> Xe HPC: Offering compute efficiency for the data center, it’s the basis for Ponte Vecchio, a high-performance GPU Intel announced last November. Ponte Vecchio is being architected for HPC (high performance compute) modeling and simulation workloads, as well as for AI training. It will be built on 7nm technology using a combination of Intel Enhanced SuperFin and processor technology from other companies.

Learn more about Intel Xe graphics:

> Watch the Intel Architecture Day 2020 video on Intel Xe graphics

> Download the Intel Architecture Day 2020 presentation slides (PDF)

> Watch an Intel SuperFin explainer video

 

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How a military museum adapted its virtual agent for lockdown with the Intel NUC Mini PC

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by Peter Krass on 09/10/2020
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The coronavirus pandemic is changing job roles — even for those who exist only in the digital realm.

An animated virtual agent that greets visitors to a Canadian military museum is among the many working differently post-COVID. To change this virtual agent’s role, the museum’s tech provider has relied on a broad array of Intel systems, including the Intel NUC 9 Pro Mini PC.

The virtual agent, known as Master Corporal Lana, was developed for the Ontario Regiment Museum. This museum, based in Oshawa, Ont., holds Canada’s largest collection of operational military vehicles — tanks, trucks, personnel carriers and more, some dating back to the 1940s. Virtual agent Lana was developed by a local tech provider, CloudConstable, using its Animated Virtual Agent (AVA) software.

Animated virtual agent Master Corporal Lana

Prior to the lockdown, Master Corporal Lana used AI-powered functions to welcome visitors from her screen and provide useful information about the museum. She also could count visitors, help with crowd control, and even perform facial recognition. However, once the museum closed due to the pandemic, those skills were no longer needed.

Redeployed agent

Rather than shutting Lana down, the museum decided to redeploy the virtual agent. Now she welcomes the museum’s 100 or so volunteers, who are still needed to keep the collection of vehicles maintained and running. To protect the volunteers’ safety, the museum constructed a new vestibule. There, volunteers are now greeted by virtual agent Lana, have their temperature taken, and answer questions concerning their health and possible infection by the virus.

The installation is built around an Ergotron wall track that securely attaches CloudConstable’s setup, providing a secure, touchless self-service screening and protocol assistance system. Other elements include an Intel NUC 9 Pro Mini PC, speaker and mic, and custom connectors that shield the system from dust and heat generated by the museum’s vehicles.

The system also includes a prototype sensor array powered by an Intel RealSense depth camera and thermal scanner. CloudConstable’s AVA software uses the Intel RealSense depth camera vision-based interface to detect Yes and No head gestures.

If the system determines that a volunteer might be infected with the virus, it denies the volunteer’s entrance and instructs them to instead return home. The system can recognize individual volunteers, so that each volunteer receives a personalized greeting from virtual agent Lana.

RealSense, NUC adapted

To adapt Lana to her new role, CloudConstable used a range of Intel technologies. It adapted the AVA software using Intel hardware and software, including toolkits designed for AI and Intel RealSense depth cameras.

CloudConstable also adapted an Intel NUC 9 Pro Mini PC to run machine-inference models for facial detection and “head pose estimation.” The NUC’s Intel vPro Platform enables secure remote management with Intel Active Management Technology (AMT). Hardware acceleration was handled by the Intel Distribution of the OpenVINO toolkit.

Now Lana’s role is changing once again, as the museum re-opened on a limited basis on Aug. 15. To accommodate this change, the museum installed another AVA station near its main entrance.

There, Lana is outfitted with an Ergotron mobile cart so that she can check-in staff and volunteers and interact with guests, helping them be aware of social distancing and special rules, asking them not to touch artifacts, and requesting they follow a one-way path through the exhibits.

“This moment,” says museum executive director Jeremy Blowers, “could be a leap forward for technology.”

Learn more:

> Artificial intelligence support for unexpected essential business (Ontario Regimental Museum case study)

> Intel NUC for business

> A workstation that runs demanding design and engineering apps and can hide on your desk (Principled Technologies hands-on test of Intel NUC 9 Pro)

> Intel NUC training courses in Intel Partner University

 

 

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In the Zone

Check out new laptops from 4 OEMs with Intel ‘Tiger Lake’ CPUs

Peter Krass's picture

by Peter Krass on 09/08/2020
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When Intel introduced its 11th Gen Intel Core mobile processors last week, the company also said that more than 150 designs based on the new “Tiger Lake” CPUs are expected from Acer, Asus, Dell, Dynabook, HP, Lenovo, LG, MSI, Razer, Samsung and others.

Last week Intel also said that over 20 verified designs are expected this year under the new Intel Evo platform brand.

No need to wait. The first laptops based on the 11th gen Intel Core mobile processors and Windows 10 have already been announced. Here’s your tech provider’s roundup of the first batch.

Lenovo

The company introduced 5 consumer devices in its Yoga brand due in time for this year’s holiday shopping season that will be powered by the new 11th gen Intel Core processors. Lenovo also intends to get the devices verified for the Intel Evo platform badge.

Here’s the Lenovo lineup:

> Yoga 9i: A 14-inch 2-in-1 convertible with built-in Wi-Fi 6 and Thunderbolt 4, and a battery life of up to 18 hours. Shipments are set for October, with EMEA retail prices starting at €1,799 (approx. $2,150).

> Yoga Slim 9i: This 14-inch laptop will be branded in North America as the IdeaPad Slim 9i. Either way, this device is among Lenovo’s thinnest laptops, measuring 13.9 mm / 0.54 in. and weighing 1.26 kg / 2.77 lb. Battery life offers up to 20 hours. Shipments are set to begin in November, and the EMEA retail price starts at €1,899 (approx. $2,270).

> Yoga 7i: A 2-in-1 device with a 14-inch display, Dolby Vision, and two Thunderbolt 4 ports. It will ship in November and carry a starting retail price of €999 (approx. $1,180).

Lenovo Yoga 7i

> Yoga Slim 7i: This 13-inch ultraslim 2-in-1 will ship in November, with retail prices starting at €999 (approx. $1,180).

> Yoga Slim 7i Pro: It’s a 14-inch laptop with up to 18 hours of battery life. Shipments are to begin in November, and the starting retail price has been set at €899 (approx. $1,062).

Read more about the new Intel Yoga devices.

Acer

Acer has announced 2 thin and light laptops powered by the 11th Gen Intel Core mobile processors. Acer also intends for both to be verified with the Intel Evo badge.

> Swift 3: This notebook comes in 2 versions: 13.5 and 14 inches. Both offer up to 18 hours of battery life. The 13.5-incher’s magnesium-aluminum cover keeps the weight down to a low 2.6 lb. and thin at 0.63 in. The larger version weighs only a bit more (2.65 lb.) but is just as thin. Both have a backlit keyboard. North American shipments are set to begin in November, with retail prices starting at about $800 for the 13.5-inch version and just under $700 for the 14-incher.

Acer Swift 3

> Swift 5: This notebook offers a 14-in. UHD display and a battery life of up to 17 hours. It’s light at about 2.3 lb. A special hinge elevates the keyboard when opened for easier typing. There’s also an antimicrobial layer of glass to reduce odors and stains. North American shipments are set for November, with retail prices starting at just under $1,000.

ASUS

ASUS has announced a full lineup of both new and upgraded PCs with the 11th Gen Intel Core mobile processors. The list is long, but this should be most of it:

> ZenBook Flip S: This is ASUS’s first laptop to be verified under the Intel Evo platform brand. It’s an ultracompact device that’s 13.9 mm / 0.55 in. thin and weighs 1.2 kg / 2.6 lb. Battery life goes up to 15 hours.  

> ZenBook Flip 13, Flip 14 and Flip 15: These convertibles feature a 360-degree hinge, so they can be used in any mode. The 13 measures 13.9 mm / 0.55 in. and weighs 1.3 kg / 2.9 lb.

ASUS ZenBook Flip 15

> ZenBook S: A premium ultraportable with a 13.9-in display, it weighs 1.35 kg (about 3 lb.) and features an all-metal unibody case.

> ZenBook 14 and ZenBook 14 Ultralight: As the name implies, the Ultralight is easy to carry at just 0.98 kg / 2.1 lb. The “regular” version weighs only a bit more: 1.19 kg (about 1.9 lb.).

> ExpertBook B9: A minimalist laptop for corporate road warriors. It weighs just 0.88 kg / 1.9 lb. yet sports dual SSD storage, Wi-Fi 6 and AI-powered noise-cancelling audio.

> VivoBook 14 and 15: Laptops designed for both productivity and entertainment. One differentiator is a wide range of fancifully named colors that include Dreamy White, Cobalt Blue, both Bespoke and Indie Black, Hearty Gold and Transparent Silver.

ASUS hasn’t yet announced either shipping dates or retail prices.

Dynabook

This company, formerly known as Toshiba America Client Solutions, recently introduced 2 laptops with the new 11th Gen Intel Core mobile processors:

> Portégé X30W-J: It’s an ultralight (1 kg/2.2 lb.) convertible with a 13.3-in. display. Both Thunderbolt 4 and Wi-Fi 6 are built in. This device, part of Intel’s Project Athena innovation program, is targeted for verification under the Intel Evo platform brand.

> Portégé X30L-J: It seems the “L” stands for “lighter,” as this 13.3-in. laptop weighs just 0.9 kg (about 2 lb.). It’s aimed at mobile professionals.

Dynabook says shipments will begin in this year’s fourth quarter, which is also when the retail prices will be announced.

 

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