Intel, which made a splash at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in January, reportedly is buying smartwatch maker Basis Science.
News site TechCrunch, citing unnamed sources, said the giant chip maker is acquiring Basis for between $100 million and $150 million, a move that comes after reports surfaced late last month that Basis officials were talking with a range of potential buyers, including Google and Apple.
Basis has created the B1 health tracker, a Bluetooth-enabled smartwatch device that tracks a user's heart rate throughout the day, detects their body movements, shows changes in sweat patterns to help track workout intensity and monitors body temperature. The data can be synced via mobile apps to a user's Apple iPhone and iPad or Android-based smartphones and tablets. The company recently released the 2014 edition of the device, which sells for $199.
Under CEO Brian Krzanich, who took over the top spot in May 2013, Intel has been more aggressive in its efforts in the mobile device space. The company is accelerating the development of its low-power Atom platform as it looks to take on ARM and its range of chip-making partners, including Samsung, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments.
Intel also is targeting new markets, such as the Internet of things and wearable devices. In September 2013, company executives unveiled the Quark line of processors, which are smaller and more energy efficient than the Atom systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) and are aimed at such new markets. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, Krzanich showed off a range of reference designs for wearable computing devices, from smart earbuds and a smart headset to a smartwatch and a device for baby clothes.
The CEO also unveiled Edison, a small computer powered by Intel's tiny 22-nanometer Quark SoCs that is housed in an SD card and includes built-in wireless capabilities and support for multiple operating systems. Edison will be available this summer, giving device makers the foundation for their own devices.
Intel is competing with the likes of Qualcomm, STMicroelectronics and Texas Instruments in building the chips and chipsets for such devices. In addition, some vendors—such as Qualcomm with the Toq and Samsung with the Galaxy Gear smartwatch—also are coming out with their own devices. Intel needs to muscle its way into the space, and having a hardware platform like Basis to show off its silicon—as well as experienced engineering and design teams—is a good way to do it.
Intel already was an investor in Basis through its investment arm, Intel Capital.
Industry observers are expecting rapid growth in the wearable device market, which is part of the larger Internet of things trend. A Berg Insight analyst said that in 2012, 8.3 million units of wearable devices—from smart glasses like Google Glass to smartwatches and fitness trackers—were shipped, and that by 2017, that number will jump to 64 million units.
"A perfect storm of innovation within low power wireless connectivity, sensor technology, big data, cloud services, voice user interfaces and mobile computing power is coming together and paves the way for connected wearable technology," Johan Svanberg, senior analyst at Berg, said in a statement when the firm's report came out in October 2013.