The co-inventor of USB is building a smart house. Since his retirement, Ajay Bhatt, who spent over two decades at Intel specializing in platform architectures and developing technologies such as accelerated graphics port (AGP) and PCI-Express, has spent the last year experimenting with the Internet of Things (IoT), specifically by building a own smart home.

Ajay Bhatt will be receivng a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2017 ACE Awards. (Image source: Intel) 

“While I was working I started designing this house and my goal was to put in a lot of IoT devices in it. Part of my time was spend doing general construction and part of it was adding technologies that would scale over time,” Bhatt told Design News.

Aside from some advisory work for a few startups, Bhatt, who will be receiving a Lifetime Achievement award at the Annual Creativity in Electronics (ACE) Awards as part of the 2017 Embedded Systems Conference in Silicon Valley, says that he has been content to enjoy his retirement … at least until something new comes along.

“My whole mission in life is to make things easy to work with and easy to design. I’m just starting to play with things and figure out how it should be. Before I know the answer I want to know what the current problems are with existing systems.”

The irony of what he’s doing isn’t lost on Bhatt. As one of the key developers of USB Bhatt and his associates at Intel created a universal standard for connecting devices via cable. Today USB ports are as ubiquitous as wall outlets and you’d be hard pressed to find a computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone that doesn’t take advantage of it in some way.

But right now the world of IoT is anything but standardized as companies compete over not only who can offer the best and “smartest” devices for your home, office, and even the factory but also over what standards and protocols will drive the entire Industry 4.0. “Before I built the home I talked to [IoT] companies so I could understand what they do. And I quickly discovered they are very high end. They’re closed systems they don’t scale very well and they lock you into an ecosystem. I wanted to do something much more open and flexible,” Bhatt said.

Bhatt believes technology has to be fast. It has to scale, interoperate, and it has to work seamlessly when you ask it to do something. “But there are so many standards and so many interfaces and it’s really confusing,” he said. “So I”m trying to see how can you simplify this.”

Before Life Got Better … It Got Complicated

Speak with Bhatt long enough and you get the sense that simplicity is a word he lives by. It shows in the measured way he speaks – carefully choosing every word, and it certainly shows in his work.

“When we started I don’t think most people, including my colleagues at Intel, realized that USB was something that was needed,” Bhatt said. “I kept on saying that if you want to make computers useable to a common user then you have to make things easier to use. I always used my own family as an example. When my wife tried to use the PC at home she as always very frustrated even with basic things like printing or scanning. She always used to say, ‘What good is this? Any time I need to do something it just doesn’t work.’ ”

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