Intel is making another push into the wearable computing device space, this time making a "significant investment" in Recon Instruments, a 5-year-old company that makes Google Glass-like headsets for sports participants such as bicyclists, skiers and runners.
The money invested by Intel Capital, the chip maker's investment arm, will help Recon in everything from product development to marketing to expanding its sales staff. Recon also will be able to leverage Intel's expertise in manufacturing, operations and technology, the two companies announced Sept. 24.
Neither vendor released financial terms of the investment.
The backing of Recon is only the latest move by Intel in the burgeoning wearable device space, which analysts at Juniper Research said in July will grow from about 15 million devices this year to 150 million devices by 2018. In June—about a month after taking over as Intel CEO—Brian Krzanich said in an interview with Reuters that the chip maker was going to be aggressive getting its chip technology into a wider range of products, including wearable devices.
Krzanich said he was a user of Google Glass—a headset the search giant is developing that enables users to access the Internet—and that he expected more devices for the ear, eye and wrist to come to the market in the coming months and years.
"I think you'll start to see stuff with our silicon toward the end of the year and the beginning of next year," he said. "We're trying to get our silicon into some of them, create some ourselves, understand the usage and create an ecosystem."
Earlier that month, Intel invested in Thalmic Labs, which makes MYO, an armband that enables users to control objects through hand gestures.
During the Intel Developer Forum earlier this month, Krzanich unveiled Quark, an upcoming family of low-power systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) that will be smaller than the company's Atom offerings and be aimed at such Internet of Things systems as industrial machines and wearable devices. The Quark chips will be a fifth the size of the Atom SoCs and consume a tenth of the power, according to Intel executives.
"Wearable computing is a major, accelerating phenomenon that re-defines how we use and interact with information," Mike Bell, vice president and general manager of Intel's New Devices Group, said in a statement. "In Recon Instruments, we see compelling technology and a solid strategy to capitalize on the wearable revolution. This is an area of significant focus for Intel Capital, and our investment in Recon Instruments is a key part of our approach to innovation in this emerging space."
Wearable devices are getting a lot of attention, due in large part to some high-profile systems such as Google Glass and the expected iWatch from Apple. However, a range of wearable devices—such as Nike's FuelBand and the smartwatch from Pebble—already are on the market or are planned for release.
For tech vendors, they're part of the expected growth of the Internet of Things, which will come when more intelligence and connectivity are put into systems, enabling them to collect and transfer data and communicate with users and each other. Chip makers, including Advanced Micro Devices and Broadcom, are looking to supply the silicon for their devices, while vendors like Dell are seeing these systems as potential growth areas.
Recon currently offers the Snow, a system used in specially designed snow goggles that gives the user—via a GPS and series of sensors—data on everything from navigation and jump airtime to distance and speed. In June, the company announced Jet, a full heads-up display (HUD) that is integrated onto sports sunglasses and is initially aimed at bicyclists and triathletes. The solution connects wirelessly—via ANT+, WiFi and Bluetooth—to third-party devices, which gives the athletes such information as heart rate, power output and cadence, while attached sensors give such data as speed, pace, distance time and vertical ascent.
The Jet offers a high-definition camera, with a microphone and speakers, as well as a high-resolution display and an optical touchpad.
The Jet Pilot Edition is in limited release now, with full release expected next year. Recon also is creating a Jet SDK that will come out before the first Recon Jets ship. The SDK will enable developers to create applications for a range of activities, which will expand the Jet's reach beyond hard-core athletes and into such industries as health care and fitness.