Kevin Kahn on Redefining Mobility: Carry Small, Live Large

This entry was first posted by Kevin Kahn in the Research@Intel blog.

Imagine a day when a single device small enough to fit in your pocket has the power of a laptop and can deliver a rich computing, telephony, media, gaming, and Internet experience. Imagine a day when this device knows your tendencies and preferences and can adapt and optimize its interfaces to match what you are doing at any point any time. Imagine a day when this device is not constrained as a standalone unit, but can dynamically become a hybrid combination of other computing and multimedia devices in close proximity. In the labs at Intel, we have been looking at what makes sense for mobility in the future – a vision we refer to as Carry Small, Live Large.

The first component of the Carry Small, Live Large vision – Carry Small – is focused on enabling users to carry essential and convenient computing resources in powerful, small, pocket-sized devices. Today, many of us frequently carry laptops, PDAs, cellular phones, mp3 players, and other mobile devices. This mishmash of technologies is disconnected and in many cases limited in functionality. Devices are locked into specific networks and operating modes and most cannot communicate with each other. With the exception of laptops, few mobile devices deliver a true, full Internet experience. As we use different mobile devices, we have come to expect a bifurcated experience with different views of applications and Internet websites on different devices. We have conditioned ourselves to live with a suboptimal experience on small form factor devices based on what we expect the device to be capable of rather than what we really want the experience to be.

The research and development behind Carry Small technologies will produce small, powerful mobile devices, which offer multifaceted functionality. They will offer more powerful processors, allowing them to overcome shortcomings of the small form factor by supporting more natural forms of human interfaces such as voice and gesture recognition. They will be more energy efficient, and feature longer battery lives than most mobile devices today. Tomorrow’s mobile device will have ubiquitous connectivity, able to automatically recognize and connect to WiFi, WiMAX, and 3G networks, among others. Beyond improvements to the standalone device, we also believe there are also significant opportunities to improve the mobile experience through seamless connectivity and interactions with devices around you.

The second component of the Carry Small, Live Large vision – Live Large – is focused on amplifying and enhancing the utility of the small mobile device by detecting, connecting, and sharing functionality with a variety of computing, storage, and multimedia devices in their vicinity. When you walk into your office, your small mobile device should automatically and wirelessly dock with your mouse, keyboard, and display monitor, or even with the larger interfaces of a notebook PC, providing a better experience by eliminating dependency on the tiny keyboard and screen when more convenient interface devices are available. While travelling on a long flight, the mobile device should be able to utilize the screen on the back of the seat in front of you to extend battery life by powering down the small mobile screen. This vision requires technologies to discover relevant devices and allow easy, secure wireless connections to be established between them. Technologies such as near-field communication (NFC) will enable secure introductions by simply touching one device to another – an intuitive approach for end-users that is analogous to a handshake between humans.

Living Large also means that your experiences are relevant to your current context. For instance, when travelling in a foreign country, integrated sensors such as GPS, accelerometers, and a compass will allow a device to infer where you are and what you are doing. If you are looking at an interesting historic building, the device could use its built-in camera to capture what you are looking at, synthesize with contextual data such as your location and direction you are facing, and download and present historic and tourist information to you via the mobile broadband Internet connection. All of these components are available in devices as standalone functions today, but enormous opportunities are at our doorstep if we connect them together in a meaningful way.

At Intel, research is already underway to make mobile devices, smaller, smarter, and context-aware. And work is being done to ensure these devices can take advantage of other resources around them. However, we can’t fully realize this vision by working on our own. Many companies are striving to make mobile technologies smaller and more functional, and many incompatible proprietary solutions for aspects of this vision have been demonstrated at industry forums such as the Consumer Electronic Show. Standards and cooperation across both the PC and CE industries are essential to ensure a seamless experience for end-users without burdening them with the need to determine which devices are compatible and which protocol should be used for one application versus another.

It is at the intersection of Carry Small and Live Large where composable and context-aware computing capabilities become real. And it is at this intersection where our everyday experiences are greatly amplified and enriched. Help us to enable the new mobility of the future.

Dr. Kahn is an Intel Senior Fellow, the corporation’s highest technical position, and currently the Director of the Communications Technology Lab, a corporate advanced development and research lab responsible for radio, optical, and copper physical layer technologies, as well as higher level protocol work. Additionally, he helps drive communications strategies and policy for the corporation. Some of his primary current focuses are broadband access to the home, wireless LANs and PANs, spectrum policy, and related Internet issues. He currently serves on the Commerce Spectrum Advisory Committee, the FCC Technological Advisory Council, the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Research Council, and on various academic advisory committees. Throughout his 30-year career with Intel, he has worked in system software development, operating systems, processor architecture, and various strategic planning roles. He has held both management and senior individual contributor roles. He holds a B.Sc. in Mathematics from Manhattan College, and M.S. and Ph.D. in Computer Science from Purdue University.