Intel is continuing its aggressive expansion into wearable devices and the Internet of things, with the latest step being a partnership with fashion eyewear designer Luxottica Group to make smart glasses.
The companies announced the deal Dec. 3 from the International Luxury Conference in Miami, with officials saying they expect the first product from the partnership to launch in 2015. The announcement comes two days after reports surfaced that Google will begin using Intel processors in its Google Glass smart headsets, replacing the CPUs from Texas Instruments that had been used to power the devices.
The Luxottica alliance is the most recent move by Intel in the rapidly growing Internet of things (IoT) and wearable device spaces. Since taking over as Intel CEO last year, Brian Krzanich has made those markets key focuses for the company. There were few details given regarding the deal with Luxottica, which makes such eyewear brands as Ray-Ban, Oakley, Vogue Eyewear and Persol.
“The growth of wearable technology is creating a new playing field for innovation,” Krzanich said in a statement. “We expect the combination of our expertise to help drive a much faster pace of innovation and push the envelope of what’s possible.”
The IoT is expected to have a significant impact on businesses worldwide. Cisco Systems officials have said there are about 25 billion connected devices and systems—everything from notebooks, tablets and smartphones to home appliances, cars and industrial systems—worldwide, and that will grow to as many as 50 billion by 2020. Cisco CEO John Chambers has said that the financial impact on businesses globally will be as much as $19 trillion by the end of the decade.
The wearable device market—from smartwatches and other jewelry to health trackers—will play a significant role in the IoT, according to IDC analysts. They expect the number of wearable computing devices shipped this year will exceed 19 million, and grow to 111.9 million in 2018.
Krzanich has been vocal about Intel missing the trend toward mobile computing several years ago—a market in which the giant chip maker is still trying to catch up—and the CEO is determined his company will not miss out on the IoT and wearable spaces. Both took central roles at the company’s Intel Developer Forum in September.
Intel has created a business unit dedicated to the Internet of things, and one of the first moves Krzanich made after assuming the top spot was to launch the New Devices Group at Intel, which is charged with pushing the chip maker in such areas as wearable devices. Intel in March bought fitness- and health-tracking device maker Basis Science, and in September the company launched the latest Basis Peak smartwatch.
Last month, Intel unveiled more details about the MICA (My Intelligent Communication Accessory), a bracelet designed in partnership with high-end retailer Opening Ceremony that features gems such as pearls, lapis stones, Russian obsidian and Tiger’s Eye; black and white water snake skin; 18 karat gold plating and a curved sapphire glass touch-screen display. It sells for $495.
As with the Luxottica partnership, the MICA bracelet illustrates Intel’s efforts to make wearable devices that are both stylish and connected. It’s a viewpoint echoed by Luxottica CEO Massimo Vian.
“We’ll lead the change to create frames that are as intelligent and functional as they are beautiful,” Vian said in a statement. “Products that consumers will love to wear.”
The Intel alliance is not Luxottica’s first foray into wearables. The company earlier this year entered into a partnership with Google.