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Intel sets up IoT lab in Dubai and announces reference design for smart vending machines

Steve Rogerson
May 7, 2015
Intel is to set up an IoT laboratory and smart city centre of excellence in the Middle East and has announced an IoT retail gateway reference design for intelligent vending.
The IoT laboratory is a joint project with the Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA), which runs an integrated free zone technology park. The DSOA has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Intel to establish jointly a first-of-a-kind lab facility in the Middle East, that will support the development of a smart city centre of excellence and innovation within the Dubai Technology Entrepreneurship centre (DTec), DSOA’s wholly owned technology incubation centre which is expected to be launched soon.
The IoT retail gateway reference design for intelligent vending is an integrated, pre-validated and flexible design including hardware, software and security building blocks to speed up development and deployment of smart vending machines. N&W Global Vending was on the Intel stand at this week’s VendItalia international vending exhibition in Milan offering a sneak preview of the first prototype of a vending machine based on the Intel technology.
Building on previous Intel reference designs, the retail version integrates pre-validated building blocks that facilitate the integration of multiple compute workloads. Examples include vending machine controller, touch screen, telemetry, digital advertising, payment and transaction management, as well as simplification of integration with back office applications. Adopting proven compute models is said to enable vending machine manufacturers and vending operators to focus on innovation, reduce development time and investment risk while differentiating themselves by moving to a PC-based platform.
"By consolidating multiple workloads onto a single vending platform, manufacturers can free up time to focus on meeting the increasing expectations of today's tech-savvy consumers," said Jose Avalos, worldwide director of visual retail at Intel. "For example, customers can integrate new natural user interfaces, social media capabilities, loyalty programmes and nutritional information – all of which will have a positive impact on the consumer's vending experience."
The reference design is based on the Atom E3815 system-on-chip (SoC) and includes the company’s IoT Gateway software stack. The compute board is based on the company’s reference design for digital signage, which vending machine manufacturers can make or buy. The gateway also includes a vending machine IO board and a vending machine API.
Intel-based products for vending are also available from Advantech, Gigabyte and Jabil.
“Intelligent vending clearly showcases the latest advances in microcircuits, processors, wireless communications, data storage and transfer, and human interfaces,” said Florida-based Jabil’s Roberto Ferri, vice president of sales. We are excited to collaborate with Intel and the intelligent vending manufacturers that want to embrace this new era of automated merchandising. With all these advancements in technology, it's a very exciting time for the vending industry.”
The MoU for the IoT laboratory in Dubai was signed by Mohammed Alzarooni, vice chairman and CEO of the DSOA, and Taha Khalifa, regional director at Intel.
As a strategic partner of Dubai’s smart city initiative, the DSOA is mandated to provide a physical site to host the lab with the objective of developing a smart city centre of excellence and innovation within a functional workspace fitted out with standard office equipment. Furthermore, the DSOA will be responsible for supporting the lab’s objectives through attracting the local innovation community in the UAE and engaging them to develop their talents through a range of workshops and training components.
For its part, Intel will be responsible for managing and operating the joint lab facility with a number of full-time employees. Intel will also provide all hardware, software and computing equipment and technology required for operating the joint lab. Additionally, Intel will be showcasing demos of relevant IoT technologies for both internal lab purposes and external visitor viewing. Furthermore, the chip giant will be responsible for appropriate on-site tests and the development of several IoT platforms.
“We are proud of our collaboration with Intel in developing a joint lab facility that will provide a range of services to support the local innovation community,” said Alzarooni. “The facility – which is the first of its kind in the Middle East – will also function as a platform to run proof concepts of smart city initiatives for any Dubai government entities or private sector organisations. The lab will also play a fundamental role in spreading the know-how and offering hands-on training through Intel’s start-up kits that will be demonstrated to school and university students alike”.
He said the DSOA smart city committee met with Intel representatives on various occasions to explore new opportunities that would create a value proposition for both parties.
“We then worked on the initial MoU that will support DSOA’s technology focus and ecosystem, while providing Intel with the space to share its expertise and reach the tech community in the UAE and wider region,” he said.
Intel’s Khalifa added: “The advances and initiatives that are driven in Dubai around smart cities are world leading and we are thrilled to be part of these leading projects. This innovative public-private collaboration will use Intel’s IoT smart city demonstration platform to further develop the government’s vision for Dubai. As a technology company, we will leverage our expertise and advanced end-to-end solutions to enable efficient use of resources and realise the many untapped possibilities of the IoT. We’re powering the IoT future and driving improvements in everything from air and water quality to transportation, communication, and energy management systems.”
The Smart Dubai Initiative comprises six key dimensions – smart economy, smart lifestyle, smart transportation, smart governance, smart environment and smart generation – and relies on the three basic principles of communications, integration and cooperation. Through encouraging collaboration between the public and private sectors, the strategy aims to transform Dubai into one of the world’s smartest cities over the next three years through the roll-out of 100 initiatives and 1000 smart services that improve the quality of life in the city.
A wholly owned entity of the government of Dubai, the Dubai Silicon Oasis operates as a free zone technology park for large enterprises, medium and small companies looking to set up their offices in Dubai.