In 2011, Intel started trying to corner the market in next-gen laptops, creating the ultrabook category and leading the way in getting corporate partners on board to help realize their vision. This year at CES, it looks like Intel is trying to carve out a similar kind of leadership role in the world of wearble technology, which looks to be the place for excitement in tech this year.
At CES, Intel has announced new partnerships that will put Intel chips into wearable tech and shown off a few devices meant to be held up as models for hardware manufacturers. Intel revealed that they will be working with Barneys New York, the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and Opening Ceremony. The latter is currently working with Intel to make a smart bracelet that will be sold by Barneys New York later this year. All of the partnerships are meant to make wearable tech more palatable – the most difficult part of sales probably isn’t the tech, so much as it is putting it in a shell that people are actually willing to wear in public.
Intel also gave CES a look at three reference designs, showing off what Intel has in mind for the new year. There’s a new set of sport earphones that feature the convenient marriage of audio and fitness tracking sensors, consolidating the two most popular fitness gadgets into one. Intel has also made a smart Bluetooth headset, designed to work with personal assistant software like Siri. In addition to the usual commands, users will be able to stop the personal assistant from speaking with a couple taps. The smart part comes in with sensors that prevent the personal assistant from giving you notifications while you’re busy, choosing the most convenient time possible to chime in. Intel also had an accessory for both – a wireless charging bowl that starts charging wireless devices upon contact. Just throw that headset in the bowl and forget about it. None of these will be coming to market, but you can probably expect droves of very similar products later this year.
Intel seems to be taking on a leadership role in wearable tech in two ways. One way, of course, is their technology – a new line made just for the wearable tech industry. Intel Edison is actually an entire computing system shrunk down to the size of an SD card. It’s based on 22nm Intel Quark technology, and enables Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. The size makes it perfect for wearable tech – Intel’s demonstration of Edison was to put it in a baby onesie outfitted with sensors, currently in production from Mimo Baby.
Intel is also leading the way by kicking off their ‘Make it Wearable’ challenge, which is basically a call to everyone interested in fashion and/or tech to create prototypes for new wearable gadgets. The competition will officially get underway in the summer, when Intel starts accepting submissions. Next January, Intel will announce the winners and hand out over $1 million in prizes to help get those products onto shelves.
If the ultrabook craze is any indication, this all means we’ll be hearing a lot about wearable tech this year. Google Glass and smartwatches will be joined by who knows what else, as smartphones and tablets and ultrabooks become old hat. Whatever does come out this year, you can bet that Intel is going to be inside much of what you see.