Intel unveiled their latest offering at the CES Show last week and it represents a new era for the tech giant. While they may have lost the smartphone race to rival chipmakers ARM, Intel are hoping to get a headstart in the next-generation fields of wearables and ‘Internet of Things‘ devices which call for small size and low cost computing.
Historically Intel have always been about the hardware, not the software and it doesn’t look like they’re about to part with tradition with the Intel Edison. Some people might find it hard to get excited about a computer without a monitor or keyboard but the Intel Edison’s appeal lies in the endless possibilities it offers. The clue is in the name, Intel are hoping to spur on a new wave of inventions and the Edison chip has the potential to connect and improve many aspects of our lives.
To help get the revolution started, Intel have put aside $1,300,000 to fund startup projects which make use of the Edison device. This is being allocated through their “Make It Wearable” competition which encourages developers to suggest potential uses for the Intel Edison in wearables for areas such as healthcare, education, security and fashion.
The first major product to feature the Intel Edison was the Mimo Baby Monitor developed by Rest Devices at MIT. It incorporates the chip into a a small plastic turtle that clips into a baby’s onesie which monitors its temperature, heartbeat, breathing and movements. The consistency of the baby’s vitals is of obvious interest to the parents and could be displayed on connected smartphones but potential uses of the data include a smart milk bottle which automatically begins warming up when it detects the baby stirring.
It’s specifications are very impressive for its size and it boasts a 22nm dual-core 400MHz Intel Quark processor, 500MB of ram, Bluetooth LE and WiFi connectivity. The remainder of the specifications such as the size of the flash storage remain unclear as the Intel Edison has only just been announced but more will likely be revealed over the coming months here.
I remember being amazed at how small the Rasberry Pi was a a few years ago but the SD card sized Intel Edison takes things to the next level. Devices such as the Raspberry Pi were limited in how small they could be by the size of their components such as the Ethernet and USB sockets and how they fit on the motherboard but new technologies such as wireless charging, low energy BlueTooth and super-small WiFi connections make it possible to do away with bulky hardware components that require physical connections.
That’s not to say that the Raspberry Pi and the Intel Edison are entirely comparable – the Raspberry Pi’s relatively small size and low cost might have made it attractive for certain homemade Internet of Things applications but it was primarily intended to serve as a simple computer to teach kids coding. However in terms of potential uses in Internet of Things and particularly wearable technologies the Intel Edison definitely comes out on top.
The wireless properties of the Intel Edison – in regards to both charging, and Internet and Bluetooth connectivity – make it possible to integrate within items such as clothing as you won’t need to be able to access it each day to plug in a charger. This and its small size means that it should be possible to make the Edison completely waterproof.
Despite the Edison Development Board set to become available In just 6 months time, Intel haven’t yet revealed the prices and this could be for one of three reasons. Either they won’t be as cheap as people are hoping, they need to try and gauge demand before they can calculate how low manufacturing costs can be, or they’re scared that a rival chipmaker will come out with something cheaper. Whatever the reason for this intrinsic withheld detail, the price point is likely to be what determines whether the Intel Edison is to be the device which heralds the age of the Internet of Things as the cost of the chip will have an obvious knock on effect when it comes to the cost of the final IoT and wearable devices which incorporate it.
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