This is a shorty story about Intel’s journey.
Unexpected, I know, but Intel did try to go beyond PCs to fashion, via wearable technology.
The ‘Smartphone Train’
Long before the emergence of portable devices, smartphones, and tablets, Intel attempted the impossible.
Long before Blackberry launched its groundbreaking Pearl smartphone and Apple its history-making iPad, Intel already had a foot on the door.
Launched in 1998, it was a portable, wireless-enabled, smart tablet called the Web PAD.
It was twelve years before the Cupertino-based company launched its first iPad.
Moreover, Intel’s tablet was quite revolutionary for those times.
It had WIFI capabilities, a StrongARM processor, touch screen and a stylus pen.
A pen, a decade ahead of Samsung’s smart tablets with pens as Samsung’s first device sporting a stylus pen was the Galaxy Note, in 2011.
Although Intel Web PAD was a great device, the computer industry did not want it; not at that time.
So, under growing pressure, Intel had to abandon the project.
Intel’s War On Chipsets
The world kept going and the times kept changing, and eventually, the market of smartphones and tablets boomed.
However, this time the company was no longer the only one in the chipset business.
ARM, another chipset manufacturer was rising fast, as a real competitor to Intel.
Global giants such as Apple, Samsung, and Nvidia started using ARM’s faster and cheaper chipsets in smartphones, tablets and smartwatches.
Almost like an oil tanker, too large and too slow to change direction, Intel was racing against the smaller but faster ‘boat’.
It took the release of company’s 2012 Atom-powered SoC, a system-on-chip platform, to bring Intel back on track.
Moreover, it was a clear sign that the company is interested in wearables and smart sensor devices.
In a market monopolised by ARM and its power-efficient chipsets, the SoC was Intel’s ‘finger-pointing’ at the wearable tech market.
A finger testing the waters if you like, before grabbing it with both hands.
Intel – Ready For The Future
Over the past four years, Intel spent 11 billion dollars buying almost 40 companies in the mobile chipsets landscape.
It prepared for the next silicon age, as the 10nm mark was the last gasp for pure silicon chipsets.
Beginning with 2014, Intel started to create a market presence in fashion landscape via media partnerships and robust social media presence.
No longer just a chipset company, Intel’s name started to get associated with wearables, smartwatches, fashion designers, and even luxury brands.
The year of 2014, which marks the company’s advent in fashion is worth breaking down:
Intel purchased Basis Science, a startup marketing health trackers and wrist-worn activity devices.
Intel-powered Basis smartwatch was considered as one of the most intelligent smartwatches on the market at that time.
Intel and SMS Audio formed a partnership and launch their first product, the biometric earbuds.
BioSport In-Ear Headphones powered by Intel delivered high-quality audio while gathering actionable biometric data and fitness progress.
Intel and the American fashion company Fossil joined forces in a project designed at ’empowering the clothes and accessories of tomorrow’, with smart sensor technology.
Intel introduced MICA (My Intelligent Communication Accessory).
It was one of the first smart bracelets to combine luxury jewellery with smart sensors.
The bracelet had semi-precious stones (pearls, obsidian, and snakeskin) as well as a 1.5-inch sapphire touchscreen.
The bracelet was designed in partnership with ‘Opening Ceremony’.
MICA smart bracelet remains one of the most loved fashion tech accessories of those times.
Stylish and connected at the same time, the bracelet worked without the need to connect to a smartphone or tablet.
Intel signed a multi-year collaboration with Google and Luxottica.
Intel offered research and support towards the next Google Glass 2.0, and any future AR and VR projects in fashion.
Moreover, it has embarked on a partnership with Luxottica to “package innovative tech in impressive luxury eyewear.”
Intel acquired Recon Instruments, a Canadian company and world leader in smart eyewear technology for sports and high-intensity environments.
The company’s next generation of smart glasses – Recon Jet – was equipped with a tiny camera that projected information on the inside of the lens.
Intel announced another partnership, this time with Google and the Swiss luxury watchmaker, TAG Heuer.
The trio wanted to take on Apple, by designing a smart luxury smartwatch.
The announcement coincided with TAG’s press release stating it is re-orientating its business for the future of fashion.
Intel Fashion Innovation – The Secret
As you can see, Intel’s involvement with the fashion industry was not an accident.
Just like Apple, Intel acknowledged that, inescapably, fashion needs technology to ‘take it to the next’ level.
Intel knew there was plenty of business in textiles, fabrics, garments, accessories, AR, VR, and mixed reality.
In less than five years, Intel changed its image from a chipset maker to one of the most knowledgeable and trustworthy tech partners for fashion.
Fashion Returns To Tech
You can certainly argue that the wearable tech wave has subsided over the last five years.
And yet, the lockdown has reminded us once again
A market of computational textiles and smart fabrics designed to keep you safe and warm.
Garments that can ‘feel’ your mood, change colour, communicate with connected objects around you.
A world of tech-infused fashion garments created by brands and companies that have never used ‘silicon’ before.
A new world of smart buttons, rings, bracelets, bags, jewellery, and pendants, is waiting to be unleashed.