Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Saturday, August 13, 2022

Intel Moves on Blockchain, Self-Driving Cars 

Chip giant Intel Corp. continues to diversify beyond its x86 roots into emerging markets ranging from autonomous vehicles to blockchain technology. It announced initiatives this week covering both, including a partnership with Microsoft to provide hardware and joint software development for a planned enterprise blockchain service.

Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) announced Thursday (Aug. 10) they are collaborating to develop a blockchain format called the Coco Framework that targets enterprise users. The platform will integrate Intel's Software Guard Extensions (SGX), an architecture designed to boost the security of application code and data. The software development kit includes API's, libraries and tools for developing and debugging SGX applications in C and C++ programming languages.

The partners said the Intel contribution would help accelerate and scale transactions while boosting blockchain privacy and data security. SGX is described as a hardware-based security technology designed to provide a trusted execution environment by isolating sensitive portions of a blockchain program. It consists of a set of CPU instructions that create "private areas" in the CPU and memory used to protect code and data during execution.

Sensitive blockchain data is encrypted until it is opened in an SGX "enclave" by a permitted program, the partners explained, with faster transactions achieved by isolating the verification process. That, in turn, speeds up the process of distributed, or network, consensus, that is among the cornerstones of blockchain systems.

The Coco Framework "stores blockchain data in encrypted form," Intel's Ricardo Echevarria noted in a blog post. "When data is requested and the proper identity validated, the data is decrypted for transaction execution within a private enclave."

Meanwhile, Intel stepped on the gas this week with its MobilEye computer vision acquisition, announcing plans to build a fleet of 100 fully autonomous vehicles for testing in Europe, Israel and the U.S. The first vehicles will be rolled out later this year, the Intel unit announced Wednesday (Aug. 9.).

"Our goal is to develop autonomous vehicle technology that can be deployed anywhere, which means we need to test and train the vehicles in varying locations," said Amnon Shashua, incoming Mobileye CEO and CTO.

The test vehicles that include multiple auto brands and vehicle types would combine Mobileye computer vision, sensor, sensor fusion and mapping with the parent company's processor, datacenter and 5G wireless technologies to deliver what is promoted as a "car-to-cloud" platform.

The new fleet will be also serve as the basis to for interacting with regulators while demonstrating new concepts, including mapping and safety validation, which Mobileye hopes to scale in production systems.

Intel is betting that autonomous vehicles will emerge as "data centers on wheels." The Mobileye acquisition also included data analytics as well as "localization" technologies that would advance its position in the booming vehicles systems and data services markets.


About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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