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Intel positions itself for wearables boom

by Stuart Wilson, Monday 31 March 2014

Components vendor Intel wants to position itself at the heart of the wearables revolution. Speaking in London earlier this month, Steve Brown, chief futurist at Intel, declared: “Wearable technology is the next big megatrend – the physical world and digital world are coming together and changing the way we live.”

“Now we can start thinking about computers going onto and into our own bodies. Wearables will eventually start connecting with our nerve endings and even our brains,” explained Brown. “Ten years from now, everything can become a computer – be it shoes, a coffee cup or even our bodies. That is the breakthrough we are looking at.”

The evolution of wearables will bring together the worlds of design and engineering in the quest for products that combine both form and function. “Lots of design-led companies that are interested in wearables will not want to hire engineers. They will want to use products like Intel’s Edison as a building block for their creations,” explained Brown.

Intel’s Edison development board is a tiny, power-efficient development platform the size of an SD card that is small enough to drop into just about anything, according to the vendor. In the new world of wearables, interaction between multiple devices becomes critical.

“Many wearable devices will not offer great functionality on their own. They need to be connected to a wider computing capability,” said Brown. “I think we need to start thinking about new ways that we will interact with wearables – it will probably not be touch. We will start to see computers that can see, perceive and understand the world around them.”

Much of the early attention on wearables has centred on smartwatches, a natural and logical evolution of a product that is widely used. Brown reckons that the long-term future for wearables will see new product categories and new interfaces emerge.

“Wearables could be in your eyes, your ears, on your belt or on your shoes. It is a case of thinking what shall we put where – but what and where on its own is not enough. It is about creating wearable technologies that are smart and connected – that is what is new,” said Brown.

“Lots of wearable technologies need to think about the whole package, not just the marketing. There is a need to fit in with what is really important to people,” he continued.

Brown claimed that successful wearables will combine three core elements: function, form and connection. What is clear is that the development of wearables as a category will involve companies from a broad cross-section of business backgrounds - from fashion houses to components manufacturers.

“Intel knows we can’t do this alone,” conceded Brown. “Wearables will only be successful if they do things that humans really care about. Intel has a group of people dedicated to wearables. We don’t know yet where this is going to take us, but it’s exciting.”

Intel has launched a wearables competition to drive innovation in the category and hopefully lead to the eventual development of some new wearable products.

Steve Brown was speaking as part of a keynote presentation at the Wearable Technology Show in London on Tuesday 18th March 2014.

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