Intel is taking a significant step in its efforts to expand its presence in the nascent wearable device market with the acquisition of Basis Science, which makes a health-tracking device that is worn on the wrist.
Speculation about Intel's efforts to buy Basis surfaced earlier this month, after reports that the smartwatch maker was shopping itself around to other companies, including Google and Apple. Intel declined to comment on the reports then, but confirmed the deal March 25.
"The acquisition of Basis Science provides immediate entry into the market with a leader in health tracking for wearable devices," Mike Bell, vice president and general manager of the Intel's New Devices Group, said in a statement. "As we accelerate our position in wearables, we will build upon this foundation to deliver products that bring people greater utility and value."
Basis developed the B1 health tracker, a Bluetooth-enabled smartwatch device that tracks a user's heart rate throughout the day, detects body movements, tracks workout intensity by showing changes in sweat patterns and monitors body temperature. The data is synced through mobile apps to a user's Apple iPhone and iPad or smartphones and tablets running Google's Android operating system. The 2014 version sells for $199.
Industry observers expect the wearable device market—which includes everything from smartwatches to connected headsets like Google Glass—will grow rapidly over the next few years. Berg Insight analysts said that in 2012, 8.3 million units of wearable devices were shipped. By 2017, that number will jump to 64 million units, they said.
Intel under CEO Brian Krzanich is aggressively pursuing new markets, including mobile devices, the Internet of things (IoT) and wearable devices. In September 2013, Intel announced the Quark family of systems-on-a-chip (SoCs), which are smaller and more energy efficient than the company's Atom platform and aimed at the IoT and wearables. Intel at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show showed off a range of reference designs for wearable computing devices—including smart earbuds and a smartwatch—and 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. Device makers will be able to leverage Edison for their designs this summer.
Now the chip maker is adding Basis Science, which will be housed in Intel's New Devices Group, where former Basis CEO Jef Holove will be a general manager. Intel had been an investor in Basis and had a place on the device maker's board.
In a post on the company blog, Basis officials said pairing with Intel will help them move their ambitions forward.
"We felt like the momentum Basis had generated on its own would only be greater with the technical, manufacturing, global reach and support resources Intel has to offer," they said in the post. "So, we are as excited about the announcement today as the day we started Basis, because Intel can help our team make a bigger difference in the world."