Intel’s Investments in Cognitive Tech: Impact and New Opportunities

An overview of Intel's recent investments in cognitive technology, the impact of these investments on technology and research, and the new opportunities these investments present.

Connected Things


Unloading some computing on the endpoint looks to be an aim of Intel’s investment in the connected things area (Table 4).

Yann LeCun, the director of AI research at Facebook, highlights the challenge of computing on device, which Intel seemed to have noticed as well[19]. Running cognitive tech workloads on endpoints is an emerging trend as it facilitates to compute local/transfer energy trade-offs[20], provides low latency and can solve concerns over privacy by minimizing exposure of sensitive data to the external world. Therefore, one may suggest that system-on-chip (SoC) accelerators for cognitive functions could be common in the nearest future.

Cognitive computing-related assets

By pursuing local computing, Intel has acquired Saffron, a cognitive computing platform provider, Silicon Hive, a developer of a tool for programming SoC components, and Olaworks, a mobile face recognition company. Indisys, a natural language processing company, presumably, was also acquired with a purpose of integrating its technologies into Intel’s chips[21].

Intel believes that Saffron’s technologies ‘…deployed on small devices, can make intelligent local analytics possible in the Internet of Things’[22]. Moreover, it was rumored that combination of tech behind Olaworks and Silicon Hive may help Intel with moving face-recognition workloads on mobile[23].

Also, the company made at least 12 acquisitions in computer vision, speech recognition, navigation and robotics (Table 5). Some assets are integrated in Intel’s structures, for instance, Telmap, which was acquired for $300M. Alternatively, acquired technologies are implemented into Intel’s products (e.g. Omek Interactive became a part of RealSense platform) or operate independently (e.g. Nixie Labs, Open Bionics, Babybe).

Other cognitive tech assets


Intel’s move into machine learning is a good sign for companies involved in the cognitive tech as well as it outlines a new opportunity for startups.

Being a company with deep pockets and a market power, Intel may propel adoption of the cognitive tech by offering more affordable hardware and building the community of developers around it. With Intel’s support, FPGA’s adoption will likely be increased and use-cases of technology will diversify.

Intel’s investments also indicate where money is likely to move to in the future, e.g. into cognitive computing in the cloud and on a device.

Challenges associated with Intel’s strategy also open opportunities for cognitive tech companies.

For instance, solving issues of integration of CPUs with FPGAs and programming of FPGAs may become a foundation for emerging new businesses.

Update: a week after the post was published, Intel has announced the acquisition of Itseez, a computer vision company. Previously Intel already has aquired at least three companies in the field, namely Olaworks, Omek Interactive and CognoVision Solutions. What is special about Itseez is that the company is focused not only on computer vision itself but also on its ‘ …implementations for embedded and specialized hardware’ [24].

‘Itseez will become a key ingredient for Intel’s Internet of Things Group (IOTG)…’ and empower Intel’s move into connected things market, highlighted in the post above [24].

I would like to thank all of those who have helped me with the note, especially its technical aspects.


[15] See
[20] Sometimes it’s cheaper energy-wise to compute locally than to transfer data thru wireless


Bio: Peter Zhegin is an Associate at Flint Capital, an international venture capital fund investing across US, Israel and Europe. Peter is executing investments in B2B software and fintech. Prior to joining the fund, Peter worked at the headquarters of, one of the leading internet retailers in the CIS.

Original. Reposted with permission.