SAUSALITO, Calif. — Wearables have until now been mainly thought of as consumer health and fitness devices, but Intel believes that they will increasingly find useful roles in the enterprise.
“I think our imagination has been captured by consumer wearables, but there are huge opportunities for wearables in the enterprise,” said Steve Holmes, vice president of Intel’s new devices group, at VentureBeat’s Mobile Summit today.
One of the wearable products that’s finding its way into the enterprise space is the Pro Glove, which got attention after its performance in Intel’s Make It Wearable contest. (A company called Nixie, which makes a wrist-based selfie drone, ended up winning the contest.)
Intel has also seen its wearables chips power devices in the health care world, such as in artificial limbs created by a company called Open Bionics.
“Open Bionics is this idea that you can 3D print an artificial limb and outfit it with certain things and place that limb,” Holmes said. “It used to be thousands of dollars, but that price can drop by four or five times.”
Holmes worked on mechanical design for Apple’s G4Cube computer; at Nike, he launched the Fuel band and a GPS watch. Now at Intel, he leads a group trying to create chips that will help entrepreneurs execute on unique ideas for new wearable products.
Always looking to design new (and smaller) chips for wearables, Intel first released the Edison chip — a dual-core platform with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support. It then released a similar but smaller and more powerful chip called Curie.
Not that Intel isn’t interested in wearables for the consumer space. The company bought Basis, makers of the Basis band. Holmes said Intel decided to buy Basis because it was the only band that could tell that Holmes wasn’t running 75 miles an hour when he was riding in a car.
Intel has also (somewhat famously) partnered with a company called SMS Audio to create the BioSport in-ear headphones. The phones use a small infrared light to measure the wearer’s heartbeat.
Intel is now also working with the sunglasses company Oakley, Holmes says.
If Intel is successful in its chip-making efforts, it will be less expensive to create new wearables.
“There are just a handful of companies making smartphones, but I think there will be thousands of companies making wearables, and that is what we are trying to enable,” Holmes said.
In a wider sense, far more people will be wearing things like biometrics monitors in the next few years, Holmes believes. “At some point I think it will be seen as irresponsible to not wear a health wearable — as irresponsible as it is not wearing a bicycle helmet when you’re out biking,” he said.