Intel Edison: an SD-card sized PC for wearable computing

7 Jan 2014

Intel demos smart earbuds, charging bowls and more in hopes of kickstarting wearable devices

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich has revealed the company's vision for wearable computing - and at its core is an SD-card sized PC called Edison.

Edison is based on Quark technology, the tiny, low-power system-on-a-chip that was designed for wearable computers, such as smart watches, and the Internet of Things.

Quark was unveiled in September, and Intel used the first keynote at CES 2014 to reveal Edison, a dual-core, 22nm version built in an SD card housing for easy development.

"It's a full Pentium-class PC in the form factor of an SD card," Krzanich said.

It not only supports multiple OSes and has built-in support for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, but it also has its own app store - and has Wolfram Alpha's Mathematica baked in by default.

Intel Edison

Edison will be available in the middle of this year, Krzanich said. "We believe that Edison will enable rapid innovation and rapid product development," he said.

Wearable examples

Krzanich admitted wearables were an area that needed kickstarting. "Why aren't wearables everywhere, what's holding back wearbles in this market place?” he asked.

He had his own answer: current wearables require the user to carry another device at the same time, and they don't solve real life problems. To fix that, he called for the industry to "make everything smart" and advised that "simplicity makes technology desirable."

To lead by example, Krzanich unveiled Intel's own versions of key devices to inspire the rest of the industry.

First up was a connected headset, a pair of smart earbuds that track biometrics such as heart rate and pulse while still playing audio. The data is sent to a smartphone, and the earbuds harvest energy directly from the wearer, so they don't require batteries.

smart headset

The second device was a smart charging bowl. Simply drop a device - such as the smart earbuds - into the bowl, and they charge automatically without fiddling with wires.

"It's a very simple device you can leave on your counter, and it will go ahead and charge what you need," he said. "This is one of those key deliverables that will make wearables work."

The third demo Krzanich showed off was a smart watch, which has its own connectivity so it doesn't require tethering. It also features what he calls geofencing, letting it track the wearer.

For example, a parent could use it to track a child on their walk to school. If the child deviates from the standard path, or doesn't get to school on time, the parent is automatically notified.

Smart turtles

Krzanich also showed off a "smart turtle" baby monitoring system, created by MIT based firm Rest Devices using an early version of Edison.

Calling it nursery 2.0, Krzanich showed how the turtle-shaped monitoring device can be clipped to a baby's clothing to keep watch of its movement, pulse or breathing.

Turtle

The signal is interpreted and sent to a coffee cup that displays breathing patterns and other notifications that indicate if a child is unhappy.

Intel cup

The system can even be connected to an Edison-embedded smart bottle warmer, so if the child's activity suggests it's hungry, the bottle will be ready to go by the time mum or dad realises it's feeding time.

Wearable contest

To help spur such creativity in wearables, Krzanich unveiled an Intel competition to create innovation designs using Edison.

The top prize is $500,000, with a total $1.3 million at stake, and the top ten creations will be brought to market by Intel and partners, he said.

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