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Intel Exec Jonathan Ballon On IoT Lessons Learned From GE Digital

In an interview with CRN, Intel IoT executive Jonathan Ballon reflects on his time at GE Digital as a co-founder and talks about the advantages of the chipmaker's upcoming Movidius VPU over Nvidia's comparable products. He also teases unannounced purpose-built silicon for IoT.

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'Tightly Coupled Hardware And Software Wins The Day'

Intel executive Jonathan Ballon said he has applied some big lessons from his time at industrial internet pioneer GE Digital to products coming out of the chipmaker's IoT Group — which includes the upcoming Movidius Myriad visual processing unit for performing inference at the edge.

Ballon, vice president of Intel's IoT Group, was previously COO and a co-founder at GE Digital, the industrial IoT software vendor started by General Electric that has had its fair share of struggles over the past few years and made some pivots as a result.

[Related: What Intel's Habana Labs Deal Could Mean For Its Nervana AI Chips ]

During his time at GE Digital, which lasted from January 2012 to January 2014, Ballon helped build a partnership with Intel that involved optimizing GE Digital's Predix on Intel architecture. From that, he learned the importance of hardware and software companies working closely together.

"One principle is, I believe that tightly coupled hardware and software wins the day, because you get much higher levels of performance, you get a developer ecosystem that will commit to you architecturally over a long period of time, and that will create value," he said in a recent interview with CRN at an Intel event for the company's new Movidius and Nervana chips.

That lesson can be seen in the chipmaker's strategy for IoT and artificial intelligence solutions. For instance, the chipmaker has developed OpenVINO, a developer toolkit that gives developers easy ways to optimize and deploy trained neural networks on Intel products, like Movidius.

"When we talk about purpose-built and democratizing AI, the tool set's hugely important," Ballon said. "And up until this point, the tools have been highly proprietary and have required an extraordinary amount of engineering know-how, and we want to break that open."

What follows is a lightly edited transcript from CRN's interview with Ballon, who talked about IoT lessons learned from GE Digital, the advantages of Intel's new Movidius chip over Nvidia's comparable products, how software plays an important role in Intel's IoT plans and how Intel works with channel partners on IoT products. He also teased unannounced purpose-built silicon for IoT coming from Intel.

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