Intel Unveils Wearable Tech at CES

CEO Brian Krzanich outlines Intel's expansion from PC industry.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich talks about geo-fencing in a wearable tracker during a keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, in Las Vegas.
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Chipmaker Intel arrived at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas bearing announcements about the company's pivot from the declining PC era, including its involvement in wearable technology along with the next generation of gaming and movie animation.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich has been on the job for only six months, but gave a speech Monday outlining the company's plans to use the computing power of its chips to innovate a new wave of solutions that include wearable technology devices.

"We are entering a new era of computing," Krzanich said as he explained Intel's effort to design convenient, practical devices for consumers. "Wearables need to solve problems."

The designs unveiled fall in line with Krzanich's goal to "make everything smart," but are not yet available for sale.

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The most popular types of wearable devices are those worn by joggers, so Krzanich unveiled smart earbuds, which can track a user's heart rate and work with fitness apps on a smartphone. They also can be charged using the microphone jack of a phone. Bluetooth headsets and digital assistants are another type of mobile device with growing acceptance among users, so Krzanich showcased a smart headset called Jarvis - making a clever nod to the electronic butler system used by Tony Stark in the movie "Iron Man." The Jarvis headset can perform functions similar to other digital assistant devices like Google Now and Apple's Siri, remotely connecting with a smartphone to check phone and email messages, navigate directions and search for restaurant reservations online.

In an effort to design devices that resemble housewares, Krzanich displayed a charger bowl that can repower a smartphone or other device with electromagnetic energy after the device is dropped into the bowl. Continuing a showcase of devices built for the home, Krzanich also displayed what he called "Nursery 2.0," which included an advanced baby monitor: baby clothes that show whether a sleeping baby is upset or too hot. The monitor is linked with a flashing red alert on a coffee cup for the parent staying up late.

A smart watch unveiled by Krzanich also had tools that could be useful for parents keeping an eye on their kids, including a "geo-fencing" application that maps out a navigation path for a child wearing the watch and notifies a parent if the wearer ventures outside of a neighborhood

To make mobile gear stylish to wear, Krzanich announced partnerships with the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Opening Ceremony and Barneys New York on device designs.

To power these devices, Intel announced its new Edison chip, which is the size of a camera's SD card but has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities and can connect to an app store. The chip will be available to developers as part of a contest enabling startups to get their wearable designs on the market by connecting with Intel and other tech companies, Krzanich said.

"With Edison, the opportunities, we believe, are endless," Krzanich said. "We didn't want to limit it to what we could think of."

To create security for a new wave of innovation, Intel will make some McAfee security software free for mobile devices, Krzanich said. McAfee is being rebranded as Intel Security, following Intel's purchase of the company in 2010.

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"We want to make security an essential part of computing" Krzanich said. "We believe this is critical to enable this ecosystem."

Along with calling on the tech community to help innovate using Intel's processors, Krzanich highlighted ways the industry can have a humanitarian impact and said Intel spent four years auditing its supply chain of metals used to build its processors. These materials -- including tin, gold, tungsten and tantalum -- have earned the name "conflict minerals" because they can be used by paramilitary groups to fund bloody campaigns in countries with mineral wealth, like the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

As of 2014, however, every processor sold by Intel will be "conflict-free," Krzanich said, calling on the tech industry to take similar steps.