Context Continues — Dell Wake on Approach (WOA)

I was recently surprised to discover that my seminal work on the Context Sensing system at Intel has continued to make waves in the computing world. Over five years at Intel, I orchestrated, planned, and led multiple teams around the key concepts in context awareness for personal computing. Exciting to see our work now installed on many platforms worldwide!

A Little Context History

Beginning in 2012, my team created the first non-intrusive Human Presence Detection (HPD) algorithms and productized them so they could be used on any platform — we made systems context-aware using attributes tied to the user such as persona, compute usage, habits, and attributes tied to the environment such as ambient brightness, location and more.

Our work was deployed first on Android systems from Asus, including Asus’ Zenbo Robot — the context-awareness work we did ended up on nearly 100 million phones, tablets and devices.

Yet for a few years, the progress of context-aware computing into the PC market was slow. Then in 2015, we launched at the Intel Developer Forum, and I got to meet Michael Dell. I won’t say that our short conversation swayed the market, but it appears that Dell took note of our demo.

In 2021, I was happy to learn that Dell has launched our context-aware work on all Dell systems, under the label “Wake on Approach” and “Walk Away Lock” (both terms my team developed at Intel).

Dell Details

You can read a very helpful Dell Whitepaper that explains how it works. And here’s a summary of the two features at work in the world.

Congrats to all my Intel team mates who worked so hard for so many years to get these functions onto PCs worldwide.

Wake on Approach (Near) :

WOA Wake on Approach (WOA) provides a seamless method for user to wake their laptop up from modern standby sleep and login without physically interacting with the laptop. This experience allows for responsiveness and optimized time to productivity unseen by the market.

Here is an outline of how this works:

1. System is in Modern Standby sleep state
2. User walks into field of view of laptop
3. Proximity sensor in laptop detects user
4. Laptop wakes up from modern standby
5. When enabled with Windows Hello using biometric facial authentication, the user will be logged in seamlessly without system interaction

Walk Away Lock (Away): WAL

Walk away Lock enables the PC to automatically lock the laptop when the user has left the field of view for a reasonable time. This experience increases security by not relying on arbitrarily long timer values to lock the laptop and increases usable battery life by disabling the laptop screen when the user is not in front of the screen.

Here is an outline of how this works:

1. User is in front of the laptop
2. User walks away from the laptop
3. Proximity sensor detects that user is not in front of the laptop for reasonable time
4. Laptop turns display off and locks the desktop

Market Share

Here’s a deeper dive into Dell’s market share. In the fourth quarter of 2020, Dell held a 16.6 percent share of global PC unit shipments, an increase from the 15.2 percent share the company held in the third quarter of 2020.

Dell’s market share of PC shipments worldwide remained above 16 percent for the entire year of 2019, making Dell the number three PC vendor in the world following Lenovo and Hewlett Packard. Of the total global personal computer unit shipments of around 261 million in 2018, Dell was responsible for almost 44 million.