In the past you may have heard Intel CEO Brian Krzanich say that ‘if it computes, it does it best on Intel’. There will be 50bn connected devices on the planet by 2020, according to Cisco, and many of those will be on our bodies. That is why we believe wearables are now such a vital opportunity to move the Intel experience forward. But this market cannot be driven by the technology industry in isolation. It is clear that as a sector we will have to forge new relationships with partners in the fashion industry to bring these experiences to life.
About two years ago we hosted a large conversation with members from across the fashion eco-system – a combination of designers, marketers, PR and business people – to discuss the world of wearables. That meeting persuaded us that it was important to develop a platform that was flexible enough that any designer could easily integrate it into their products.
We believe we have achieved this with the Intel Curie module. About the size of a shirt button and specially designed for always-on applications, Intel Curie contains a 32-bit Quark processor that runs for extended periods on a coin-sized battery, and a six-axis combo sensor that works with accelerometers and gyroscopes.
Intel Curie presents many exciting opportunities to augment the design of a garment or accessory, as our recent collaborations with Chromat have shown. The platform also offers obvious benefits in terms of adding the kind of self-quantification capabilities to products that are so valuable to the wellness and athleisure markets. Another major, but less visible, attribute of the device is the anonymous data it can capture and feed back to brands.
To demonstrate this capability, we distributed Intel Curie-enhanced emoji pins to key influencers at New York Fashion Week in February, anonymously tracking where they congregated and thus revealing where the hotspots at the event were. The intent was to capture and present this data in a compelling way to illustrate the sort of content that Intel Curie can produce.
This type of attribute can provide designers with a new and invaluable resource that could transform the way they create their products. Often as a designer you don’t have a great deal of knowledge about who is buying your garments, you don’t have access to a lot of insight and you don’t have any true form of relationship management or follow-up after the point of purchase.
Once products contain wearable technology, however, the data, at an anonymous level in terms of what customers are doing and what they are engaging with, can be transformative. Such data can be fed back into the product development cycle, allowing designers to have a closer relationship with their customers and driving greater loyalty.
Bringing these benefits to designers across the fashion spectrum is not without difficulties. One of the exciting challenges about embedding wearable technology more deeply in the fashion system is the divergent business models. The margins in the electronics space are different from those in fashion. We need to look at existing models differently so that technology that is integrated into, say, a jewellery piece can easily fit in a fashion retail environment.
Another often-cited issue around this type of technology is the presumed public anxiety about tracking and privacy. As long as consumers can see an obvious benefit from a device, however, they are much more open to adoption. If a transaction between the technology and consumers is overt and they can clearly see the value it adds, there is no reason that such devices can’t become pervasive. The marriage of fashion and technology is taking place faster than ever, and Intel is excited to be at the forefront of that evolution.
Sandra Lopez is the vice-president of Intel’s New Technology Group and oversees strategic relationships and business development at Intel's New Devices Group.