Intel Buys Smart Eyewear Maker Recon

The acquisition comes less than two years after Intel's initial investment in the company and bolsters its efforts in the growing wearable space.

Recon smart glass

Intel is continuing to drive its ambitions in the competitive wearable device market with the acquisition of Recon Instruments, which is best known for its Jet smartglasses and a company the chip maker initially invested in two years ago.

Intel completed the acquisition June 16, with the vendor not only gaining the products but also a "talented, experienced wearable computing team that will help us expand the market for head mounted display products and technologies," Josh Walden, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's New Technology Group, wrote in a post on the company blog June 17.

"The growth of wearable technology is creating a new playing field for innovation, and we've made tremendous strides in developing products and technologies to capture this next wave of computing," Walden wrote.

No financial details about the sale were released. Walden noted that Recon will continue to develop and sell its products under the Recon name, and that there will be no disruption with supply. At the same time, Recon engineers will work with Intel's New Devices Group to create smart device platforms for customers and market segments outside of those already being served by Recon.

This is the latest move by Intel in the wearable market, which CEO Brian Krzanich has been targeting since taking over as CEO more than two years ago. Company executives have been working to extend the reach of Intel's x86-based products, focusing on such areas as the Internet of things (IoT), wearables, cloud computing and data center resources beyond servers.

Speaking to shareholders in May, Krzanich noted that the IoT business is now a $2 billion one that grew 19 percent in 2014. Regarding the wearables segment, the CEO noted the various products that have been developed and partnerships with such retailers as Opening Ceremony (with the smart MICA bracelet), Fossil, Oakley and Luxottica. Intel also has created development boards like Edison and Curie—announced in January at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show—to help drive the development of wearable devices using Intel technology and silicon.

"All of these companies are working with us now to build products over the next couple of years in this wearable space, using these innovative technologies like Edison and Curie and products beyond those that we haven't even introduced yet," Krzanich said, according to a transcript from Seeking Alpha.

Intel last year also bought Basis Science, which makes health and fitness trackers worn on the wrist. The deal came less than a year after Intel made a "significant investment" in Recon in September 2013.

The deal also will be a boon for Recon, according to founder and CEO Dan Eisenhardt.

"As part of Intel, we'll have the resources to continue the mission we began with the creation of Recon in 2008, but with a level of efficacy and speed that's beyond the reach of a pioneer in a new market," Eisenhardt wrote in a post on his company's blog, adding that the company will remain based in Vancouver, British Columbia, and keep its employees and brand.

Through the deal with Intel, Recon will get the resources it needs to grow—including to expand its developer relations program, which will mean a stronger app ecosystem—and will be able to leverage Intel's technology offerings, he said.

Recon plays in a space whose high profile initially came from Google and its Google Glass effort, which the search giant shelved earlier this year. Analysts at ABI Research said in a report in January that while smartwatches will continue to be the fastest-growing segment in the wearables space, smartglasses will see significant growth, at almost 150 percent this year over 2014.

However, the bulk of that growth will come from the enterprise and public sectors, they said. More than 90 percent of smartglasses sold this year will be used for such tasks as remote assistance, police, military, security, warehouse and barcode scanning, as well as gaming in the consumer space.

"Smart glasses were much hyped in 2014 as a smartphone replacement, largely on the back of Google's Glass product announced in early 2013," ABI Senior Practice Director Nick Spencer said in a statement in January. "However, 2014 showed the use case for smart glasses is task-specific, for example remote assistance, security (facial and number plate recognition), augmented reality, and virtual reality."