In some ways it's the computer-industry equivalent of General Motors Corp.'s OnStar service, which allows an operator in a call center to open your car doors if you've locked the keys inside.
Intel's Active Management Technology works by keeping a communications chip inside the PC active at virtually all times, as long the machine has battery or AC power.
Once an IT manager reaches out to that chip, it contacts the chipset inside the same machine, which jolts to life and can access certain core data stored on a memory chip that retains information even when the computer is off. Chipsets are responsible for sending data from the microprocessor to the rest of the computer.
The technology is only available in desktops with Intel's vPro branding and laptops with the Centrino Pro branding. Those brands indicate that the PCs have a full package of Intel chips, and workers with those computers should assume their machines are being monitored in this manner.