Intel CEO Krzanich Unveils Wearable Strategy, Designs at CES

During his keynote, Brian Krzanich said Intel intends to lead the way in the expansion of the wearable device market.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich wants Intel to be at the forefront of the burgeoning wearable computing market, and at the Consumer Electronics Show 2014 in Las Vegas he laid out a range of new products and initiatives that the giant chip maker is offering on this front.

During his CES keynote address Jan. 6, Krzanich, who has been CEO since last May, showed off a number of reference designs for wearable devices, from smart earbuds, a smart headset called Jarvis and a smartwatch to a device—developed with Rest Devices for its Mimo Baby product line—that can be worn on an infant's onesie that monitors the baby's vitals and sends the data to a coffee mug, where it can be displayed.

In addition, Krzanich unveiled Edison, a small computer powered by Intel's tiny, low-power 22-nanometer Quark systems-on-a-chip (SoC) that is housed in an SD card, includes built-in wireless capabilities and supports a range of operating systems. Intel will make Edison available this summer to device makers and entrepreneurs, who can build their own products on top of the design. Intel officials said Edison is aimed at very small and energy-efficient devices for the Internet of things, smart consumer products and wearable computing.

The CEO said he expects Intel to drive the innovation around wearable computing and smart devices.

"Wearables are not everywhere today because they aren't yet solving real problems and they aren't yet integrated with our lifestyles," Krzanich said in a statement. "We're focused on addressing this engineering innovation challenge. Our goal is, if something computes and connects, it does it best with Intel inside."

Intel executives have been pushing to extend the company's reach beyond PCs, which have seen global sales fall in recent years as consumers and business users spend more time and money on mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. Since taking over as CEO for Paul Otellini, Krzanich has accelerated Intel's efforts in such areas as mobile systems, wearable devices and the Internet of things.

Krzanich and new President Renee James said just months after assuming their new positions that mobile and wearable devices would be priorities. The company later invested in wearable device maker Recon Instruments and unveiled the new Quark family of chips at the Intel Developer Forum in September. The x86-based chips are small and more energy-efficient than the company's Atom products, which have been the foundation of Intel's mobility push.

Analysts expect the wearable computing device market to grow in the coming years. Juniper Research said in a report that the number of device shipments will increase from about 15 million devices in 2013 to 150 million devices by 2018.

Edison is one of the initial Quark-based projects for Intel. Edison includes a programmable microcontroller to manage I/O and other functions, and the x86 architecture means it can run such operating systems as Linux, Windows and Android. Connectivity comes via WiFi and Bluetooth LE, and the computer includes LPDDR2 and NAND flash storage.

In addition, Intel announced it is working with Barneys New York, the Council of Fashion Designers of America and Open Ceremony to develop and sell wearable technology and to enhance the working relationship between the fashion and tech industries.

"The collaborations we announced today are indicative of Intel's collective and conscious approach to the wearable market," Ayse Ildeniz, vice president of business development and strategy for Intel's New Devices Group, said in a statement. "Through these initiatives we will combine Intel's leading technologies with Opening Ceremony's design prowess, Barneys New York's track record to identify the next consumer trends, and CFDA's commitment to advance innovation within the fashion industry. Our shared vision is to accelerate wearable technology innovation and create products that both enhance peoples' lives and are desirable to wear."

Intel also launched a contest called "Make It Wearable," promising $1.3 million in awards to the best wearable computing designs.