Intel's Killer Idea: The Ultra-Efficient Processor of the Future

By Derek Thompson

We asked Intel for its smartest new invention. This is what they gave us.

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Intel

The problem: Finding more efficient ways to power our electronic appliances would be a win-win. For the environment, it would mean less electricity needed to charge our phones and tablets. For consumers, it would mean longer-lasting phones and tablets.

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Where great ideas really come from. A special report

The idea: Intel has developed a "concept" processor that runs full-speed with a heavy work-load, but uses so little power in lighter sessions that you could run it with a solar cell the size of a postage stamp.

What does this "near-threshold" technology mean for you? Intel told us that even with no advancements in battery capacity, this processor could extend the life of an electronic device by a factor of five. Intel Labs's ultimate goal is "to reduce energy consumption per computation by 100- to1000-fold for applications ranging from massive data processing at one end of the spectrum to terascale-in-a-pocket at the other."

The potential: A smart phone that lasts a week instead of barely a day.

Want to share your company's best idea -- or your own! -- for our Best Ideas series? Leave your idea in the comment section or email me a description and a photograph at dthompson@theatlantic.com.

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The Best Ideas Series

Caltech: Artificial Leaves That Turn Sunlight Into Fuel

IBM: The $100 DNA-Sequencing Machine

GE: A Real-Time Energy Dashboard For Your House

Google: A Personal Translator on Your Phone

Facebook: A Social Solution to Password Security

Under Armour: The World's Smartest Shirt

Siemens: The World's 1st Hybrid Electric Airplane

Genentech: Chemotherapy Without Side-Effects

PARC: A Better, Faster, Stronger Internet

Andreessen Horowitz: A Camera That Focuses After You Click

Duke University: A Cancer Flashlight

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This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/11/intels-killer-idea-the-ultra-efficient-processor-of-the-future/248615/