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Smart wearables and Edison chip light Intel's path

Intel is looking to light a path into uncharted territory as it unveils reference designs for smart wearables and a new Edison chip.

The chip behemoth introduced a number of smart reference designs this week for new wearable technologies that include a smart watch, smart sports ear buds, and smart Bluetooth headset, in addition to support for dual operating systems on a single device.

What could potentially be Intel’s most compelling offering is the tiny chip dubbed Edison. The SD-card sized chip could greatly impact Intel’s influence in the emerging market for the Internet of Things.

Edison is a system-on-a-chip that includes an x86 compatible core supporting Linux, WiFi, Bluetooth, flash storage and more. The new low-power chip is designed for smart computing and wearable devices that require a small, powerful and low-power processor form factor.

The company demoed the chip at the Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week. Edison was installed in a toy turtle and linked to sensors connected in a baby’s onesie, which tracked the child’s temperature and movement. The baby’s temperature was sent to the mother’s coffee cup, for example. If the signal was green the baby’s temperature was fine. If it was red, the baby was hot or distressed and needed something.

While Intel showed Edison in a consumer application, one can also think how the chip might be applied to enterprises. In fact the emerging phrase of the “Enterprise of Things” is beginning to be used to highlight business deployment applications in the whole IoT market.

Connectivity is going beyond the datacenter and PCs and mobile devices to really developing serious business applications.

Theoretically, why not add an Edison chip to an employee’s PC or tablet? If something is wrong with the device, an alert can be sent immediately to the organization’s IT department and IT staff can be more proactive in delivering a resolution for the wayward device to ensure an employee remains productive. The employee may not even need to enter a help desk ticket because the IT staff already identified the problem. The possibilities are endless.

Intel also debuted new smart wearables that could actually be useful to one’s life, rather than being a futuristic concept. For example, the smart ear buds enable one to link to an app and keep track of exercise time, distance and heart rate all in one unit. Other technologies require one to wear a separate heart rate device.

The company also showed a smart watch reference design that offers geo-fencing capabilities. This would allow parents or caregivers to keep close track of their kids or elderly people by ensuring they are in the right place and to digitally notify them if they are off the beaten path.

In addition, Intel also showed Jarvis, a smart Bluetooth headset that acts like your personal secretary. (Is it a mere coincidence that Intel named the smart headset J.A.R.V.I.S. just like Tony Stark’s a.k.a. Iron Man’s artificial intelligent computer?)

While Intel’s big news for smart wearables and Edison portends the possibility of innovative things to come, the biggest shocker during Intel CEO Brian Krzanich’s CES keynote were the violent images in the  video clip Intel showed on screen about the consequences of mining key minerals used in electronics in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The area is strife with regional fighting and trade from the minerals fund armed groups.

After four years of working with the industry and governments around the world, tracking the supply chain for the minerals from the mines to its factories, Krzanich revealed all of Intel’s microprocessors manufactured this year would be conflict-free. That statement received the biggest applause of the night. Kudos to Intel for being socially responsible.

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