Two months ago, Intel's employees in Petah Tikva entered a new building in which 14,000 sensors help analyze their behavioral patterns and make their daily lives easier, from navigating the company parking lot and adjusting the lighting and air-conditioning in shared workspaces to seeing the waiting lines in cafeterias on the site. These systems are based on artificial intelligence (AI), possibly the most important technology for Intel right now.
Outwardly, the building is a kind of gimmick - "the smartest building in the world," Intel calls it. The effort to appear like a global innovation leader is important in our world, which is based on branding and public relations, and in which there is growing competition for employees and cooperation with startups. The building, however, is not just a gimmick. Intel has been facing new competition in recent years from Nvidia, which is making giant strides. Only last week, Intel unveiled a new chip designed for AI, and emphasized its superiority to its competitor's chip.
"To take the auto industry as an anlogy, we make Formula 1 cars. In the auto industry, there are all sorts of engines running on gasoline and hybrid engines. Sometimes, they are designed for one driver, and sometimes it's a leisure vehicle. Our goal is to give drivers the best vehicles," Intel Israel general manager Yaniv Garty tells "Globes."
Garty, 52, became the boss at Intel Israel nearly three years ago. Like Maxine Fassberg, his predecessor, and all of the other employees in the building, he sits in an open space. He is crazy about sports, spending most of his spare time, watching games and competitions. As in every country, Intel's management structure in Israel is a matrix, meaning that not everyone reports to Garty. He is responsible, however, for the company's nearly 13,000 employees in Israel. "We have the most extensive activity in Intel outside the US, and almost all of the company's activities are represented here in Israel," he says. "Our goal is to enlarge the pie."
If you had to choose one area in which Intel needs to and must make its maximum effort, it is AI, which is becoming more and more important for businesses and enterprises. "AI is the ability to automatically draw conclusions from data. Many technological elements are involved in this: processors, graphic processors, Wi-Fi, memory capabilities, etc. What we believe will enable us to win is the fact that we're the only company with all of these components, which enables us to provide the complete solution and all the elements required for AI.
"In general, the quantity of information produced in the world doubles every 18 months. The question is how to process and analyze this information. This brings us to a world in which computer systems are beginning to be hybrid in how they work because the question is where the processes occur. Why does a laptop need AI? I can put pictures on the cloud and do facial recognition there. But maybe I prefer it on the device itself. This has an impact on us; for example our processor for a data center has to optimize over 50 different workloads. This affects planning and consumption of capacity. If I remember rightly, the most recent figure I read was that in 2018, the energy consumption of the world's data centers was greater than the total consumption of the UK and Ireland. People write, "Don't print this email," but you should add, "Don't save it." This too has environmental significance. Coping with quantities of data is a challenge."
"Globes": Today, there are very promising startups in AI, including in Israel, which in certain areas are challenging the largest companies in the sector. What is your strategy for acquisitions versus organic development?
Garty: "Intel has made AI acquisitions, but not in Israel; for example Nervana Systems. There are several levels. We're developing organically; in places where we think that know-how and capabilities have to be imported from outside, we make acquisitions. There's also Intel Capital, Intel's corporate investment fund, which is pushing the market forward at the same time. Israeli company Habana Labs, in which Intel Capital invested, competes with Intel's products in certain aspects, which means that there's no development here that doesn't also exist simultaneously at Intel. There are Chinese walls between the company and its investment fund.
"This is an amazing investment by Intel Capital, because here is a company that is taking things forward. In this way, we help the industry push the sector. The more active companies there are, the better for us. The question is whether I want to compete for a slice of the pie or make the pie bigger. In the end, my aim is to win because I'm good; otherwise, no one will buy from me, certainly not in new technology areas. If you see a single player, it usually means that there's no market.
"One of the things we're looking for is to work with those who are looking for the next astonishing thing. They won't necessarily end up where they started, but we want to be part of this journey. Intel Capital provides us with access to the cutting-edge people in startups, some of which are three people and a piece of paper. It's one of the places that enables us to predict 10 years ahead. We really don't believe that we can answer all of the questions by ourselves; sometimes, you have to know how to put the questions."
You are a US chip company. What's your stance on the trade war, which also affects the chip industry?
"The geopolitical situation with China worries us, because we're a company that has had real activity in China, at least up until now. The effect is also on our customers, in customs duties on the price of end-products containing our developments. For example, it can have a negative impact on the PC market, in which we've been prospering for quite some time.
"There is currently fluctuation in the world on the axis between globalization and a fragmented world. I don't purport to know, and I'm not the only one, where we'll stop on this axis at the end of the process, but there is a chance that we won't reach the same point we were at a few years ago. The opposite of globalization is a cold war with a technological wall. The world will start producing systems and solutions that can't communicate with each other. The technology industry currently has standards that everyone works according to, which is what enables us to connect to a Wi-Fi network in China or the US and insert a USB cable into so many devices. Another example is how the basic architecture is constructed, how the commands are written, and how an app is run on it. This obviously affects innovation. I hope that the world doesn't get there, and that we won't see it get to such an extreme state - that we settle down somewhere on the spectrum."
An autonomous vehicle is further away than was thought. BMW is collaborating with Mobileye and also with other companies. Wasn't this a gamble?
"We have no doubt that we acquired the best brain in the sector. It's legitimate for BMW to also collaborate with other suppliers, just like we collaborate with other companies. As for the autonomous vehicle, is the first stage a Robo-Taxi, after which it will become available to everyone? This is really something that can change. But in the end, this is something that will certainly happen, and we want to be everywhere that generates data."
How do you see Intel's role as a large employer in Israeli technology?
"When Intel's CEO considers whether to continue investing in Israel, the first thing that he checks is the impact we have on current and future activity, and how we handle Intel's most important resource, which is people. In Israel, we succeeded in taking the local culture and the company's culture and connecting them. Development of a culture and recruiting people are very important things in enterprises, and those are the things, along with others, that I'm responsible for.
"I explain to overseas guests that hevra, the word for company in Hebrew, also means society. For companies, certainly on our scale, this duality does not just imply a moral duty, it's also a business need, and when these two things come together, that's where you make an impact. Our greatest strength is the number of our employees. If we manage to encourage enough employees to volunteer, we can have an impact in the places where we volunteer. We had 60,000 hours of volunteering in 2018, and half of the employees volunteered. We mainly encourage volunteering in education. We have a business interest in as many people as possible joining the technology industry."
"I'll be glad if the state can give grants to other companies"
In late January, it was reported that Intel was going to invest NIS 40 billion in Israel in building a new fab in Kiryat Gat. There have since been construction delays, but Intel stresses that things are going according to its business plan. Industry sources believe that the reason for the delay may be that the fab may be seven-nanometer, not ten-nanometer.
"For many years, we at Intel made these numbers the focus, but we're trying to deliver a message that what's important is to enlarge production capacity. In addition, the name of the game is building a fab that is suitable for more than just one technology. Fabs are built so that machines capable of handling all sorts of processes can be put in them. The question is how many cores and how quickly, whether or not it will contain graphics, whether or not there is a multimedia accelerator, what kinds of connectors, and so on," Garty explains.
You received a NIS 4 billion grant for building the fab, and that's not your first grant. It appears that you are getting grants automatically, without the public being told on what the decision is based. As a citizen, do you thing that it is right for Intel to get such grants?
"Yes, I think that the return on investment is very positive, and the state would not have invested in a non-positive ROI. As an Israeli, I'm glad that Israel can give grants to other companies able to invest such amounts in Israel. It generates secondary work circles."
What is your response to criticism that the city of Kiryat Gat has not derived enough benefit from the fab?
"I think that the fab has such large-scale activity that its influence goes beyond just one city. Look at the number of employees living in the Gedera area and south of it, and at the people who come and stay in this area. I think that the entire region has benefited. Ask the mayor of Kiryat Gat and others about the effect of the fab. For example, you can see the effect on the business park, which was in the doldrums, and now has plenty of activity- a positive impact."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 26, 2019
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