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Intel chief opens CES with parade of wearables

The company has developed a tiny PC platform called Edison that can be embedded in wearable gadgets

By James Niccolai
January 7, 2014 01:44 AM ET

IDG News Service - Intel's CEO, battling to keep the company relevant as computing moves beyond the PC, introduced a new line of wearable computers Monday night, including a connected smartwatch and a pair of earbuds with a built-in heart monitor.

CEO Brian Krzanich also introduced a PC the size of an SD card called Edison that's aimed at the growing wearables market. He showed Edison connected to a baby's "onesie" outfit that was fitted with sensors to monitor the infant's health.

Krzanich speech (2)
CEO Brian Krzanich shows an Intel-designed smartwatch at CES Monday

Krzanich demonstrated the products during his opening night keynote at the International CES. There was barely a PC in sight, with Intel keen to show that its chips are ready for the new world of tiny, highly portable computers.

One reason wearables aren't more popular is because they must often be paired with another device, according to Krzanich. "They don't always integrate what you want and you always have to have something else with you," he said.

Intel's earbuds solve part of that problem. They have a built in sensor that measures a runner's heart rate so they don't have to be worn with a chest strap. The earbuds don't operate entirely independently, however, as they get their power through the headphone jack in a smartphone.

Similarly, Intel's smartwatch has its own built in communications, so it doesn't need to be paired with a smartphone. It includes a "geo fencing" technology that knows where the wearer is located, and can send alerts based on their movements.

Parents could monitor their children's journey to school, for instance. The watch would know what time a child is supposed to arrive and what route they're supposed to take to get there, Krzanich said. So it will send an alert if the child strays off course or is running late.

"It silently notifies the guardian that you didn't arrive," he said, describing many a child's worst nightmare.

Krzanich said all the products shown Monday would be available this year, though the devices are likely to be sold by Intel's partners and not Intel itself. The company often develops products to steer the industry in the direction it wants it to go.

He also showed an "always on headset" with a voice-enabled assistant called Jarvis that works and operates very much like Apple's Siri personal assistant.

Edison is a "full Pentium class PC" crammed onto a device the size of an SD card, Krzanich said. It's based on Intel's 22-nanometer Quark system-on-chip, runs a full Linux OS and has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Power. It also has an app store on board.

Edison will be available to developers by the middle of the year, and Krzanich announced a competition with a $500,000 prize for the developer who comes up with the most innovative use for it.

On stage, he showed a baby's onesie that was fitted with sensors to monitor its temperature, pulse and breathing. By clipping a toy turtle with Edison inside onto the onesie, the baby's vitals are broadcast to the parents.

The new system on a chip called Edison offers a PC processor that is the size of an SD card. Follow reporter Nick Barber on Twitter @nickjb.
Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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