Intel's connected world rests upon Edison, wearables, new ecosystem

The Apple Watch might have stolen the show on Tuesday, but Intel also has a new smartwatch in the pipeline for the holiday season.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO---Everything is getting smarter from bicycles to coffee cups, and Intel wants to be embedded right at the center of a brewing connected world.

Mike Bell, lead of Intel's New Devices department, reiterated Intel's forecast during a mega-session at the Intel Developer Forum on Tuesday that there will be 50 billion connected devices worldwide by 2020.

"It's really turning out to be a crazy journey for us," Bell remarked, outlining three key pillars to this innovative agenda: the Intel Edison platform, wearable devices, and the formation of a new ecosystem.

Right now, consumers have to learn how to use each device and app separately because they don't often talk to each other, Bell lamented. He summed this up as "chaos," arguing that there needs to be common architecture to completely disrupt (and remedy) the situation.

Acknowledging that this is easier said than done, Bell said Intel has a "multi-prong" approach in development for devices, platforms, and SoCs.

Going deeper into "smart technology," Intel is developing IQ Software Kits, honing in on harvesting intelligence at visual, aural, and sense levels.

"We know we don't have all the answers," Bell admitted while explaining Intel is building a portfolio of technologies, investments, and industry partnerships.

"Devices tethered to a smartphone constantly are not the way of the future," Bell said about wearables.

Insisting Edison, for example, is more than just a module, Bell explained the whole idea here is a generic offering to build many different things, further fueling the latter two agenda points: wearables and a new ecosystem.

Internally, Intel already has 70 Edison beta units and 40 unique projects in the pipeline across 10 countries.

Richard Hollinshead, director of engineering at UK-based Meridian Audio, explained during a demonstration that Edison is being integrated with Meridian's DSP loudspeakers, transforming them into endpoints communicating with desktops and mobile devices via the cloud.

"You can't own everything in this world," Hollinshead said, highlighting the manufacturer's desire about connecting with services ranging from Spotify to Pandora. He touted Edison is empowering Meridian's devices to communicate with these popular channels.

Moving on to wearables, Bell reiterated partnerships as key to Intel's strategy while predicting the market to be a huge opportunity for the hardware maker across a swath of industries.

"Every time we see the numbers from analysts, they go up and up and up," Bell chimed.

While most of the world was likely focused on the Apple Watch unveiling earlier in the day, Bell highlighted a new smartwatch coming from Intel-owned Basis. Dubbed the Basis Peak and scheduled to ship in time for the holidays, Bell characterized it as the "ultimate fitness and sleep experience."

Bell also postulated "devices tethered to a smartphone constantly are not the way of the future," suggesting wearables need to have their own data plan. The new MICA smart bracelet constructed in partnership with high-end fashion label Opening Ceremony, for example, will be connected through a deal with AT&T.

David Garver, vice president of business development for emerging devices at AT&T Mobility, predicted that actually not all wearables will connect to a cellular network being that it boils down to the use case for a product. Nevertheless, Garver said AT&T sees opportunities in fitness and fashion, or "any time a smartphone is not convenient or realistic."

Earlier on Tuesday, Intel officially kicked of IDF with the introduction of a 6mm-thick tablet sporting depth-sensing cameras, new fanless 2-in-1 PCs, wireless charging and a tiny form factor board aimed at hobbyists.

On a more purely enterprise front, Intel also unveiled the new Xeon E5 v3 chip as part of its software-defined datacenter agenda.

Diane Bryant, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's data center group, stressed on Monday software-defined infrastructures are the best way possible of pooling resources (storage, network, and compute), automated provisioning of these resources, and providing visibility into security and utilization.

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