Intel On the Outside: New Partnerships Could Yield Future in Wearable Tech

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Intel has been moving outside its core brand as the “Intel on the Inside” regime from the glory days of the PC has been dumped like a three-year-old laptop.

In just the last few days, the iconic microchip maker has announced partnerships to launch new health and lifestyle products with Michael J. Fox and 50 Cent. They’re the biggest evidence yet of the strategy of CEO Brian Krzanich to make Intel a leader in the aborning “internet of things,” especially wearables, and to continue to veer away from Intel’s traditional dependence on chips for conventional computers.

Both moves put Intel into the mix with other tech brands that have been invading the lifestyle and health care spaces, especially Apple, which recently acquired the Beats By Dre brand and has indicated a greater interest in health-monitoring devices with its new HealthKit and rumored iWatch.[more]

Intel’s newest announcement has to do with a new category of “fitness wearables” being created by Intel and SMS Audio, in which rapper Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson holds a majority stake. The device, biometric earbuds that can measure a user’s heart rate and track other fitness data via a smartphone audio jack, will feature SMS’s ear-hook design and sporty styling.  

The earbuds tee off a prototype that was shown by Intel earlier this year at CES, and hit the exciting wearables industry in a very sweet spot—the ears. 

“The earbud is a perfect place to capture biometric information because it’s a product you’ve already got on you, and one that’s wired to a device with a battery. No pesky wristable to strap on or charge,” Gizmodo notes. “But other smart headphone features are already being tested on consumers. For example, Samsung’s Level Over headphones monitor how much sound pressure your ears have been exposed to each day, and warns you when your ears may have had enough.”

That news followed Intel’s announcement late last week that it is joining with the Michael J. Fox Foundation on a project to track Parkinson’s disease patients 24/7 to learn more about how the disease affects sufferers day-in and day-out. The actor is arguably the world’s most famous Parkinson’s patient, but former Intel CEO Andrew Grove has Parkinson’s and kicked off the discussion with Fox’s foundation. The program will use Fitbit-like sensors and a data analytics platform to track movements of patients in order to create a more clear mapping of Parkinson’s symptoms. 

Neither of these devices will rely in a classic sense on Intel chips but instead on Intel expertise, such as its networking technology, its design of circuitry and software, and its mastery of big-data analytics—all of which represent the cutting edge of where Krzanich sees future growth for Intel.

“This is a prime example of Intel driving innovation in wearable devices while being a forerunner in merging lifestyle and technology,” Michael Bell, head of Intel’s New Devices Group, said in a statement. For example, he told the Wall Street Journal, “A lot of people who exercise are wearing earbuds anyhow. The ear provides a great platform for doing this kind of measurement. It’s not moving around a lot.”

The collaboration with Fox carries Intel further into health care and it won’t be the last such gambit. Diane Bryant, general manager of Intel’s Data Center Group, told USA Today: “It’s a wonderful first step for us.”

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