Intel has staked its claim in the leadership of the burgeoning wearables industry with Curie, a button-size hardware product that can be used to build all sorts of wearable devices, from rings to pendants and bracelets and, yes, even buttons on clothes and bags.
At a keynote at this year's International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich pulled what looked to be a button off his jacket and showed it off to his audience. That object, however, is no button at all but the Curie, a tiny module built based on Intel's Quark SE, a system on a chip purposely built for wearable devices.
Fresh out of Intel's laboratories, Curie was designed to power devices supporting always-on applications, such as fitness tracking and social notifications, while maintaining longer battery life with the help of the energy-efficient Quark SoC combined with the low-power sensor hub and Bluetooth Low Energy. It also includes a six-axis combo sensor with an accelerometer, gyroscope and a pattern matching accelerator that identifies patterns, which is useful in features using gesture recognition.
"In the future, we will see wearable products created by companies that have historically never used silicon before," says [pdf] Intel vice president and general manager of Intel's New Devices Group Mike Bell in a statement. "It's now up to the ecosystem to innovate with this technology; rings, bags, bracelets, pendants, and yes, buttons, will all be possible."
Intel sells only one wearable product, the Basis Peak fitness smartband, through one of its subsidiaries. The chip maker actually prefers to push into wearables by forging partnerships with other companies that will develop the devices using Intel's own technology.
The latest partnership announced by Intel is that with luxury eyewear maker Oakley, which aims to develop a piece of smart eyewear for athletes. Intel is also working with another eyewear company, the Luxottica Group known for brands such as Ray-Ban, Persol, and Giorgio Armani, as well as watch maker Fossil Group to develop new wearable devices based on Intel's products.
Last year, Intel announced the MICA (My Intelligent Communication Assistant) bracelet designed in partnership with Opening Ceremony primarily for women who want a fashion-forward wearable device. It also unveiled the BioSport headphones developed by SMS Audio.
"Last year, we partnered with leading technology, fashion, and lifestyle brands to help build a robust wearable ecosystem," Bell says. "With the Intel Curie module, Intel will continue to push the envelope of what's possible and enable companies to quickly and effectively build low-power wearables in various form factors."
Curie is not expected to ship until the second half of 2015, as Intel is still waiting for authorization from the Federal Communications Commission. Shipping out with Curie are Intel's IQ Software Kits, which includes the embedded software that runs on Curie and the smartphone applications and cloud capabilities of the module.