Intel’s purchase of Recon Instruments, a smart eyewear company, adds to the tech company’s small pile of investments in the fledgling wearables market. The deal (for an undisclosed amount) was announced Thursday and follows the purchase of smartwatch maker Basis last year; the inking of a long-term deal with Luxottica for smart eyewear, including Oakley; and finally, teaming up with MICA and Opening Ceremony for smart bracelets.
Intel plans to integrate the company into its New Devices Group, whose task is to help Intel push into a new family of smart device platforms. Intel said it would continue selling the Recon goggles, as well as continue designing new products.
Some of Recon’s knowledge will be used elsewhere, too, as Intel works hard to keep up with the evolution from the PC through phones and tablets into the Internet of Things. “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,” said Josh Walden, a senior vice president and general manager in charge of Intel’s New Technology Group.
Dan Eisenhardt, the co-founder of Recon, said that being brought under Intel’s wing will give them the funding to establish a developer relations business. More importantly, however, it will give the wearables maker access to Intel’s semiconductor design and manufacturing expertise. At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Intel announced the Intel Curie embedded processor, designed to power a new generation of embedded devices.
Intel's strategy has yet to pay off with the dividends enjoyed by Intel’s PC or server processor business. With Recon, however, it has the option either to partner with smartglass makers—or create its own.
Why this matters: Intel’s commitment to this brave new world of wearables is a little surprising. But if wearables had taken off even a decade ago, they would have been powered by the likes of Texas Instruments, Motorola, Zilog, or any number of other embedded chip makers. Now, Qualcomm is Intel’s chief rival in this space. By getting in on the ground floor, Intel can get its name out in the wearables space and help drive the first few generations of wearable designs.