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Intel wants to put the smart into your smartwatch with data, analytics and chips

Mark Hachman | Dec. 10, 2014
Intel may be late to the IoT game but it's working hard to catch up, emphasizing its data centers and analytics offerings as much as its chips.

What should be noted, though, is that while Intel has talked at length about its embedded chips, Quark and Edison, those names were barely mentioned on Tuesday. In part, that's because Intel was late to the smartphone market--"ten years or so after that train had left the station," said Patrick Moorhead, president of Moor Insights & Strategy.

Moorhead said Intel is making an ecosystem pitch, leveraging the fact that it owns much of the guts of a data center, including the Xeon processors, routers, and switches. What will be interesting, he said, will be the technology that it contributes to partnerships like Fossil and Luxottica. "Luxottica knows nothing about this sort of technology," he said. 

Intel's IoT mission

Intel wants to connect devices, secure them, analyze that data, and then try to figure out how to monetize that data. Intel announced two products: a gateway that can be deployed to serve as a central reporting hub for IoT devices and then funnel that data to a server; and software from its Wind River division to manage and configure them.

Doug Fisher, general manager of Intel's Software and Services Group, said it's Intel's job to develop programs and tools to allow customers to innovate, rather than Intel itself. "My job is to get out of the way," he said. 

"The future of things like smart homes and smart buildings--you heard it earlier--is the sharing of information," Fisher said.

That necessitates partnerships with everything from OpenJDK to Hadoop to Cloudera, both on the device level and at the data center. In between are the APIs that customers can use to translate the data devices transmit into actual data--what Fisher called the "connective tissue." API management is one of the core capabilities of Intel's IoT gateway.

"It can't be just the device, just the data center, or even just the connective tissue between them," Fisher said. "It has to be all of these things, combined."

Wearables, of course, are the most visible face of the Internet of Things: from high-end face-mounted computers like Google Glass, to fitness bands like the Basis smartband that Intel itself bought earlier this year. 

Mike Bell, vice president and general manager of the New Devices Group, estimated that 400 million wearables will be sold by 2020. While Intel sells the Basis Band, the company has forged partnerships with watchmakers like Fossil and eyewear groups like Luxottica to integrate the company's Edison chips. That's the way Intel intends to go forward, Bell said: partnering with brands and allowing them to create their own branded portals, quietly powered by Intel's intelligence. 

"We consider wearables to be 'personal IoT,'" Bell said. As wearable technology becomes more personal, they may serve as a form of identification that helps eliminate ID badges, he added.


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