Intel Invests $22 Million in Startups in Communications, IoT

With the latest round of funding, Intel Capital has now invested more than $500 million this year in startups around the world.

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Intel is investing another $22 million in 10 startups focused on communications, networking, IoT and other new industry segments for the chipmaker.

The most recent investment by Intel Capital, the vendor's investment arm, brings the company’s total investment in start-ups this year to more than $500 million, according to Wendell Brooks, corporate vice president of Intel and incoming president of Intel Capital. The investments were announced Nov. 3 at the annual two-day Intel Capital Global Summit.

Startups receiving money include FreedomPop, a three-year-old company that is bringing consumers free high-speed Internet and mobile phones services. According to reports, FreedomPop also is looking to get into the smartphone business with a device that will use WiFi networks and be powered by Intel's SoFIA line of processors. The first of the smartphones reportedly will be available next year.

The chip maker's low-cost SoFIA systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) include wireless modems and are aimed at smartphones and tablets. The first of the SoFIA chips come with an integrated 3G modem, with 4G capabilities coming in the first half of next year. Intel has been a strong emphasis on the SoFIA communications chips as it looks to challenge market leader Qualcomm.

It could be a boon to Intel, which has been struggling to get its processors into smartphones. Most smartphones are powered by SoCs based on ARM's low-power architecture and developed by Qualcomm, Samsung and others.

According to news site GSM Arena, FreedomPop CEO Stephen Stokols said that the new smartphone "may mean more to Intel than it does to FreedomPop in some respects. … We are going to showcase their technology more than they could on their own, for sure."

Intel also invested in LISNR, a startup with communications protocol called Smart Tones that sends data over audio using a high-frequency, inaudible technology, according to Intel executives. The digital sound file essentially turns any speaker or piece of media into a beacon that they said works better than current technologies like Bluetooth.

Other Intel startup investments include Sckipio, which builds broadband modems and chipsets that executives said will deliver up to 2 Gb/s broadband into the home over existing copper wiring, and what3words, whose technology enables people to find and communicate a location more accurately and easily than GPS.

On the IoT front, Intel has been aggressive in pushing development platforms, reference architectures and a line of small, power-efficient Quark processors. On the same day the investments were announced, Intel officials at another event unveiled new IoT development platforms, a low-power Quark sensor chip, and accompanying software and services.

The IoT startups receiving Intel money include Body Labs, which is working to collect and digitize all the data related to the shape of the human body, creating a digital platform that can be used for designing, buying and selling goods and services. Another is Microprogram Information, which offers hardware, software and information management services for everything from rental bikes to taxi fleets to mobile point-of-sale systems. Another recipient of Intel cash, Perfant Technology, creates imaging and video technologies for artificial intelligence, machine vision, 3D reconstruction and virtual reality.

Other companies receiving funding include Chargifi, a wireless charging network that is found in hotels, shops, restaurants, offices and airports; KMLabs, which builds advanced laser systems for research and industrial uses, and Prieto Battery, which makes and sells 3D advanced batteries.

Intel also is putting money into Parallel Machines, a year-old early-stage company that is working to create highly optimized environments for pushing forward predictive analytics and machine learning.