How Intel Plans to Get Into the Wearable Technology Game

Wearables and beyond, the Intel way.

Feb 7, 2014 at 6:36AM

Most following the space know that leading chipmaker Intel Corp. (NASDAQ:INTC) missed the smartphone train when it came to core technology that runs the tablets and computers in your pocket today.  

The Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone with its proprietary A7 processor run the iOS platform. Qualcomm's Snapdragon, along with Samsung (KSE: 005930.KS) SoCs (short for system on chip), dominate the fragmented Android operating system. So what's the world's largest chipmaker, Intel, to do? Why, invent a new game, of course. Enter "Project Edison" and Intel's "strong commitment" to the wearable category.

At his CES keynote, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich introduced its Edison project with a completely different spin on the future of the mobile industry and the wearable device revolution that is upon us. It's a marked shift in the direction of technology development that breaks from the smartphone (computer in your pocket) concept and what the industry calls "tethered devices." These are Smartwatches like the Samsung Galaxy Gear that include a small display on the wrist, and use Bluetooth wireless to talk to the Galaxy phone (AKA computer) in your purse or pocket. Sony (NYSE:SNE) is also taking this tethered device approach with its LifeLog wearable sensor device that will send a stream of bio and environmental data back to the smartphone.

No tether to the smartphone 

But since Intel isn't the chip running those devices in your pocket or purse, they've moved away from that tethered approach with -- you guessed it -- a new system on chip (SoC) computer platform. It's based on Intel's low-power Quark technology wrapped up in a small SD card sized form factor with built-in wireless connectivity. The point of all this: you don't need to tether back to a smartphone because you're adding the "smarts" to the wearable device. 

To that end, during his January keynote, Krzanich showed device prototypes and announced new initiatives to help jump-start the market. Shown was a wearable Smartwatch with a full-blown system on chip on the wrist and communication links that include both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to talk to other devices; smart "bio-fitness" ear buds that track activity like running, and supply data on your heart rate, even smart baby monitoring devices that attach to a sleeping child. Intel also announced a new "technology collaboration" with the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and the Make it Wearable Technology Challenge, offering prize money to developers looking to get into the wearable space using the Intel non-tethered way to get there. Up to $1.3 million in prize money is on the table. 

So is Intel on the right track? Yes and no 

To some the future of wearable devices will take off with the advent of feather-light flexible displays with just enough sensors and communication links back to the smartphone to make them unobtrusive, yet functional. Some speculate that the elusive Apple iWatch is waiting not on the processing power that Intel offers in its Project Edison, but just such a flexible display panel -- thin, light, and robust enough to deliver to the mainstream.

To date, most all smart watch wearables are still of the rigid glass type, as we wait for flexible displays to catch up. I see big upside opportunity here and believe Apple, and others like Samsung and Sony, will benefit from its mighty infrastructure and (eventual) game-changing devices empowered by new flexible display technology. For Intel, it may be a hard sell to carry around yet another powerful processor. 

But for Intel there are other fish to fry, and the market goes beyond just wearables. And going beyond the tethered device, Intel is opening an entire universe of "things," what Intel calls the Internet of Things that will live independent and need its own low-powered processing, often with no display at all. Here Project Edison may indeed thrive, and deliver new markets for the company to expand to.

So mid- to long-term, there will be room for yet another dominant chipmaker in the mobile domain.  

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Steve Sechrist has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Intel. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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