Intel Jumpstarts its Move Into Wearables With Acquisition of Basis Science
The Basis health tracker includes sensors for heart rate, temperature, and perspiration as well as motion.
Photo: BASIS Science

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Intel may be inside a lot of computers these days, but it’s not on a lot of wrists. And that’s where the action has been in technology this year, as consumers embrace wristbands—including no-tech Rainbow Loom bracelets, simple-tech fitness trackers, and sensor-laden health trackers.

At the International Consumer Electronics Show in January, Intel General Manager of Perceptual Computing Mooley Eden made no secret about Intel’s ambitions to get into the wearables game.

The devices of the future, Eden said at CES, you will “carry on you, not with you.”

Eventually, he predicted, “we’ll see implantable devices, we’ll get constant information about our health that will interface directly with our brain.”

Eden expects he’ll live to see implantable technology in use. But before Intel gets inside your brain, it needs to get on your wrist. But it’s been having some trouble achieving that goal. As a huge variety of wristbands and watches come on the market, Intel’s attempts to fill them with chips have been lagging behind competitors like STMicroelectronics and Qualcomm.

Intel is spending a reported $100 million-plus to catch up by acquiring health-tracker company Basis Science Inc., maker of a sensor-laden watch. The Basis watch is not cheap, at $200. And it’s not the market leader, trailing far behind Fitbit and Jawbone, according to research firm Canalyst. But it does far more than the typical $100 fitness tracker, adding heart rate, skin temperature, and perspiration sensors to the standard accelerometers. With all these extra sensors, it goes beyond counting steps and hours of sleep to automatically detecting the difference between walking, running, and biking, charting sleep cycles, and detecting moments of stress.

Intel says it does not plan to market wearables itself (though Basis will continue to do so for the foreseeable future), but rather plans “to create wearable reference devices, SoCs [Systems on Chips] and other technology platforms ready to be used by customers in development of wearable products.”  Basis is clearly the kind of sensor-laden gizmo any chipmaker wishes would become standard.

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