For chip giant Intel, the $787 billion federal stimulus package presents a great business opportunity, even if it doesn't develop solar panels or electric cars.
The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company is counting on a greater demand for computers to design more energy-efficient buildings, build public transportation, and install meters and software that allow consumers to monitor their energy – where else? – online.
"The money can be spent smart or spent dumb," said Sean Maloney, Intel's chief marketing officer, at the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco Wednesday. "It's incumbent upon all of us to be vocal to make sure this money is spent on cleantech and in an efficient way."
Maloney as well as other Intel executives and sales staff will be taking this message on the road not only within the United States, but also worldwide. Maloney noted that many other countries are spending huge dollars to boost their own sagging economies. In fact, Intel figured that all of these governments have set aside more than $3 trillion in areas such as energy, construction, transportation and broadband communication.
For construction, Intel is promoting a greater use of software to carry out detailed 3-D simulations of building projects. Right now, engineers typically design in 2-D because they are used to the older technology, or they think they would need some expensive computers to run the 3-D simulations, Maloney said.
"Computing power is cheap enough for us to do simulations for construction and manufacturing, so that we can design the projects at lower costs and that are better for the environment," Maloney said. Computers sold at typical retailers could do the jobs nicely, he added.
To demonstrate his point, he brought someone on stage to show how software developed by Autodesk can help a developer design a more energy efficient building and build it more cheaply. The demo showed a 3-D simulation of the exterior and interior of a building project. The computer was able to run calculations to figure out where the sunlight is hitting the building throughout the day and year as well as how that information would affect the building's energy use.
The software can calculate the material and other costs to help developers control project expenditures.
The growing popularity of installing meters and wireless communications networks that allow utilities to better collect and manage electricity use also presents a good opportunity for Intel. Intel also makes chips that go into wireless devices and is a big proponent of the WiMax technology, which can transmit data over a much longer distance than its cousin technology, Wifi.
Intel also hopes to play a big role in the home energy-monitoring market. The company develops chips that go into TV set-top boxes, and it's developing a widget with set-top box maker General Electric for displaying energy consumption information on TV.
The partnership is part of Intel's project with Yahoo to develop software that would enable consumers to access a variety of online content on TV. The two companies first announced their plan to develop the so-called "Widget Channel" last August. Intel hopes to encourage other online content providers to develop widgets for promoting their products. Companies that plan to create widgets include Twitter, Joost, eBay and Blockbusters, Intel said.