Edge of Innovation

This Tiny Brain for Wearables Is Cute as a Button

If 2015 becomes be The Year of Wearables, it will require computing intelligence to fit inside all sorts of things – magical things of different shapes and sizes, even beyond our imagination. That means many product designers from the world of sports, fashion, travel and other areas will turn to computer technology for the first time.

Intel Curie Module is the tiny, mighty technology that will help bring these innovations to life.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich revealed the very first prototype at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show, and it will be available in the second half of the year.

Curie brings together essential components needed to bring digital capabilities, including wireless connectivity, to wearables.

Krzanich described it as a tiny, power-efficient solution that enables businesses to quickly and effectively create a broad range of wearable technologies.

“It is power efficient and can run for extended periods of time from a coin-sized battery,” Kraznich told the CES crowd.

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The Intel Curie module is a tiny hardware product based on the Intel Quark SE SoC, which is the company’s first purpose-built system on a chip for wearable devices. It contains Bluetooth low-energy radio, sensors and battery charging technologies.

Krzanich described that there’s a dedicated sensor hub processor and pattern classification engine that allows it, for example, to identify different sporting activities quickly and precisely.

“This product just came fresh from our labs, so to show you that it’s working, we created a simple app,” he said.

He demonstrated how the button-sized Intel Curie Module was measuring his steps and sending that data to an app on his smartphone.

In the future, we will see wearable products created by companies that have historically never used silicon before, according to Mike Bell, vice president and general manager of Intel’s New Devices Group

“Last year, we partnered with leading technology, fashion and lifestyle brands to help build a robust wearable ecosystem,” said Bell. “With the Intel Curie module, Intel will continue to push the envelope of what’s possible and enable companies to quickly and effectively build low-power wearables in various form factors.”

Whereas existing Intel Galileo technology is designed for makers and do-it-yourselfers, and Intel Edison – introduced at CES 2014 — is designed for professionals creating prototypes and products considered Internet of Things, the Intel Curie Module is designed for businesses eager to design and bring quickly to market new wearables.

“With this product, our partners can deliver wearables in a range of form factors such as rings, bags, bracelets, pendants and, yet, buttons,” said Bell.

Lack of flexible, power-efficient solutions, integrated software, and system integration can be some of the major barriers to entry for companies wanting to create wearable technologies and devices. The Intel Curie Module aims to provide all of that in a tiny microcomputer. It packs a robust set of features into its tiny size that are ideal for “always-on” applications such as social media, sports and fitness activities.

“Today, companies may have to source components and software from a number of different sources – which can slow development and time to market as well as increase costs, slowing innovation and the growth of the market,” said Steve Holmes, vice president and general manager of Intel’s New Devices Group.

“There is opportunity for new leaders to emerge who can develop integrated, flexible, power-efficient solutions.”

What’s in the Name?

Like Intel Galileo and Intel Edison, Intel Curie is named after an historic technology innovator.

The new button-sized module is named after Marie Skłodowska-Curie, who according to Wikipedia, was a Polish and naturalized-Frenchphysicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity.

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She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person (and only woman) to win twice, the only person to win twice in multiple sciences, and was part of the Curie family legacy of five Nobel Prizes.

She was also the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris.

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