As computing moves beyond traditional PCs Intel is hoping to prove it can keep apace with the changing market. At CES 2014, the company’s CEO Brian Krzanich showed off a range of wearable technology devices, claiming that many in this category aren’t yet solving real problems or integrating with our lifestyles. Intel believes it can change that and offered a few examples in the form of a smartwatch, earbuds, and a tiny sensor-equipped PC.
For now these are all just prototypes but offer a glimpse at what they’ve been cooking under a new devices unit headed by Mike Bell, a former Apple and Palm executive who previously worked on Intel’s mobile chips.
One of the most interesting devices was an earpiece, codenamed Jarvis, that connects wirelessly with a smartphone and integrates with a personal assistant app. Krzanich said it will work with an assistant that Intel is developing but will also work with an existing assistant -- though he didn’t go as far as to specify which one. In a demonstration, an executive searched for the nearest Indian restaurant, and got a spoken response. He could then schedule lunch, checking for scheduling conflicts, as well as set reminders and check messages.
Another example involved an earbud aimed at sports enthusiasts that includes a built-in heartbeat monitor. Data is then sent to a smartphone through the headphone jack which also serves to power the device.
Moreover Intel unveiled a tiny circuit board called Edison that’s essentially a “full Pentium class PC" crammed onto a device the size of an SD card. Based on the recently introduced Quark processor, the platform includes built-in wireless capabilities and support for multiple operating systems. In one example Intel showed Edison connected to a baby's "onesie" to monitor the baby’s pulse, temperature, and breathing.
Edison is set for release in mid-2014 and Intel will reportedly work with brands to bring wearable devices to market. Krzanich also announced a contest for the best wearable ideas with a whopping $1.3 million in prizes.
Lastly, Intel made the obligatory dabble onto smart watches with a prototype device that doesn’t require to be tethered to a phone and supports ‘geofences’ for location-based notifications. Parents could monitor their children's journey to school, for example, and be notified if the child strays off course or is running late.
Intel says all the products shown Monday would be available this year, though it’s unclear if the company will be bringing them to market themselves, or what’s more likely, through partners.