Intel CEO Points Toward Wearable Future with 'Smart Earbud' Smartwatch

Intel chief Brian Krzanich launches a wave of wearables at his CES 2014 keynote along with a new embedded processor code-named Edison.

By Mark Hachman
Tue, January 07, 2014

PC World — Last year, Intel announced the Quark , an embedded processor that Intel said would fuel the wearable market. On Monday night at CES, Intel announced the "Edison," the next-generation of Quark, along with a ton of wearable prototypes--including, yes, the obligatory smartwatch.

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As the main microprocessor supplier for PCs, notebooks, and servers, Intel's business is to raise its OEMs upon its shoulders, building the fundamental capabilities into its chipsets that Intel hardware partners can later sell to consumers. And, as Las Vegas learned long ago, a little sizzle always helps sell the steak.

Krzanich's Monday night keynote promised a journey from a world of transformative devices to immersive experiences. He began with wearables, a category that he said had been plagued by the fact that, to date, wearables have required a second device--a smartphone--to make them come to life.

Runners typically bring phones on their exercise, and want to track their heart rate as well as their distance. So Intel came up with a smart earbud, connected to and powered through your phone's audio jack. "An app, your phone, and a smart earbud, and you can go on your run you can go on your bike ride, and everything's there," Krzanich explained.

Then he went one step further: He took the smart headset, code-name Jarvis, and synced it with a user's email, calendar, and contacts.

In a demonstration, an executive searched for a local restaurant, which informed him that he had a scheduling conflict. When he agreed to go the restaurant anyway, Jarvis agreed to notify a colleague of the conflict. It's hard to say if Jarvis was a prototype of a personal assistant, or if it was fully developed.

Krzanich also showed off a wireless charging "ball."

And, of course, Intel has a smartwatch--that requires no tethering. It even has smart geofencing, which can show when a child or relative has strayed outside the predetermined zone. If a person steps outside the virtual fence, it can send an alert. "It's not like anything else out on the market," Krzanich added.

All of these products appeared to be prototypes, but Krzanich promised "a whole new series of products that we'll bring to market" via partners, including style maven Barneys, CFDA, and Opening Ceremony.

Krzanich then launched Edison, a successor to the Quark embedded processor that Intel launched at the Intel Developer Forum, but made using a 22-nanometer process. It runs Linux, and features Wi-Fi and Bluetooth low energy. It even integrates Mathematica, and Wolfram Alpha's language processing.

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