Intel is working closely with partners and customers to bring some sense of normalcy back to the world or at least find ways to minimize the disruptions created by the coronavirus pandemic.
Helping lead the chipmaker’s efforts stateside is Gina Merjanian, a 14-year company veteran who is general manager of U.S. inside sales at Intel. In a talk at the virtual Intel Partner Connect on Tuesday, Merjanian detailed some of the ways her inside sales team at Intel is working with partners to make life as “normal” as possible given the many challenges created by the pandemic.
“I can‘t think of anything that will ever be a silver bullet. We can only do our part, which is wearing our mask and [standing] six feet apart,” she said in an interview with CRN. “And I think the idea of the solutions that we’re partnering with customers on is really trying to think about it from a protection and preventative measure [perspective], even though it may not be perfect — but we’re trying to get the accuracy right down to almost perfection, and that’s the beauty of technology.”
For instance, Merjanian said, the company has been working with partners and customers to get them to use OpenVINO, a developer toolkit that enables acceleration of AI applications on CPUs and other kinds or processors made by Intel. And with that toolkit, Intel worked with World Wide Technology to develop an AI-based thermal screening solution that can automatically scan the temperatures of foreheads to screen for potential COVID-19 symptoms at airports and other public spaces.
“I do think technology gives you that advantage versus measuring someone‘s temperature manually and not having a database of information to compare that against, so it helps us as much as possible get as much intelligence in the system to make better decisions,” she said.
Merjanian said the company is also working with GE Aviation to develop predictive analytics solutions for monitoring the air quality in a commercial airplane.
“That way, passengers can feel safe and confident as they’re flying,” she said.
But Merjanian said her work isn’t just about working directly with customers and partners on deploying such solutions that can reduce the risk of virus transmission. There’s also a lot of work that goes into creating raising awareness of the different solutions Intel is developing internally or with partners and customers so that other organizations can take advantage of them.
As an example, Merjanian pointed to a white paper Intel created about the state of Indiana deploying a fleet of 18,000 PCs powered by the company’s vPro IT management platform in under two months earlier this year so that the state’s workers could receive remote IT assistance.
“They published their findings as a key public study now that‘s being leveraged right now by other enterprises and universities,” she said.
To help partners stay up to speed with the ways Intel vPro can improve remote work environments, Merjanian said her team has created about 50 different assets to raise awareness in addition to creating a virtualized desktop infrastructure commercial playback that can accelerate deployments.
“Our job is to call on these different customer accounts across the channel to ensure that they have product samples, that we’re answering their technical questions, we’re providing them with enabling documentation, we’re providing them solution briefs, we’re getting architects and resources in front of them to help them solve challenges that they have,” she said.
The company is also raising awareness of Intel IoT Market Ready Solutions, which contains more than 130 end-to-end, easily scalable IoT solutions that can be used for verticals ranging from industrial and retail to education and health care.
“The idea is make this really turnkey, so you can develop this solution and other partners can leverage it and replicate it very easily,” Merjanian said.
Another Intel way is helping create some sense of normalcy is in education, where many schools are either in virtual or hybrid learning environments. For example, Merjanian said the company has worked to supply the Houston Independent School District in Texas with the connectivity and devices they need to serve students. The company has also been working with other school districts across the U.S.
“We have a bunch of assets that the company‘s been developing to make things just easier, like our goal is make this easy,” she said. “So we’re really starting to focus on that, whether it’s through the Market Ready Solutions or case studies .”
Erik Stromquist, president of CTL, a Portland, Ore.-based Intel partner that sells Chromebooks, said his company has been involved in multiple efforts to help with the response to COVID-19, including outfitting isolation wards at hospitals with Chromebooks at the beginning of the pandemic.
The company has also been working with the city of Portland to provide Chromebooks to lower-income families that didn’t have access to technology at home, according to Stromquist. After doing a pilot program, the city decided to significantly expand it, which was made possible by funding from the U.S. CARES Act relief fund passed by Congress earlier this year.
“Turned out that it was so successful, so oversubscribed that the city, we just did a deal with them, and it was 4,000 devices to 4,000 families. We‘re just rolling that out. About 25 percent of them have LTE-enabled Chromebooks,” he said. “So that turned into something really interesting, where you have city government now getting involved in [getting] compute to the public.”