This week it was revealed that Intel added smart-glass manufacturer Recon Instruments to its shopping basket for an undisclosed sum, continuing on its wearable shopping spree. This follows the purchase of smartwatch maker Basis in 2015 and contracts with fashion brands Oakley, MICA and Opening Ceremony for smart eyewear and bracelets.
Recon will be integrated into Intel’s New Devices Group, which is focussed on creating smart device platforms.
Josh Walden, a senior vice president and general manager in charge of Intel's New Technology Group, said: "The growth of wearable technology is creating a new playing field for innovation, and we've made tremendous strides in developing products and technologies to capture this next wave of computing.”
For Recon, Intel’s semiconductor design and manufacturing expertise will be invaluable, as will the funding to establish a developer relations business. Processors like the Intel Cure, announced at the CES show in January, which is designed to power embedded devices, is a desirable addition for wearable devices.
The new purchase puts Intel in a better position to work with smartglass manufacturers or even produce its own model and proves that wearables are more than a fad - but a force to be reckoned with.
Yesterday's initial public offering from fitness tracker Fitbit adds further fuel to the trend.its shares opened 52 percent higher than the price that the wearables company had set for them. Priced at $20 (£12.62) on Wednesday, the stock instead opened at $30.40 (£19), giving it an approximate value of $6 billion (£3.8 billion). Earlier in the week Fitbit had increased the price range of its IPO to $17 to $19 from the original range of $14 to $16.
Once dismissed as a gimmick, trackers like Fitbit are hugely popular and have growth potential, according to IDC analyst Ramon Llamas. They contain technology that has room to mature and offer wellness benefits, which will help retain existing users as well as attracting the new, he said.
Investors will be impressed with Fitbit's varied product portfolio which attracts the cheaper and expensive ends of the market, as well as a global distribution network.
The growing popularity and lucrative portfolio has seen Fitbit’s value raised to $3.9 billion, approximately, this week. It raised its IPO price range up two dollars a share from $17 to $19 and is increasing the number of shares on offer from 29.9 million to 34.5 million.
Llamas said this IPO is “significant” and proves once and for all, that wearables “have staying power”.
Even tech behemoths like Apple and Google aren't placed to compete with Fitbit and other fitness specific trackers, a Gartner analyst said. Apple who produces a health app for its smartwatch and Google’s Android Wear platform which runs wearables for fitness monitoring lack the simplicity of Jawbone, for example, which may be a warning flag for Intel, if it plans to merge its wearable acquisitions onto a sole device.
Longer battery life and simpler user interfaces mean that “there's an advantage to having a device that's oriented more toward fitness tracking”, Angela McIntyre said.
Plus, Apple’s Watch starts at £299 compared to around £80 for Fitbit’s entry level products One and Flex.
In fact, Fitbit’s main competitors are its direct rivals in the market, other tracker manufacturers like Garmin and Jawbone, both of which are taking the firm to court over patent infringement.
Fitbit’s possibilities are endless in terms of working with healthcare and pharmaceutical companies in the future. However the imagination has to stretch pretty far into the future to envision what smart glasses might bring to Intel. Following Google’s fall from grace following poor uptake of the Google Glass, it seems a surprising choice – but spurs the continuing wearable trend nonetheless.
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