This post is sponsored by Intel.
At first glance, wearable devices seem pretty advanced. They inform you of the time, how many calories you've burned, how far you walked, when your next meeting is, and which of your friends is texting you. But despite how intelligent they appear to be, the truth is they could be a lot smarter.
With everything wearables and smart devices do, there remains a large gap between the physical hardware that makes up the devices and the hidden software that runs them. And in order for wearables to really excel, a robust ecosystem connecting hardware and software will need to exist.
Fortunately, Intel is already accomplishing this in a number ways both on the hardware and software front and making it easier for inventors and smart product designers to create new devices that harness the communication and data processing power of the Internet.
When wearables and devices are strictly tethered to hardware, they have limited capabilities. Intel's Edison development platform, however, enables makers and designers of consumer electronics, robotics, and wearables to take their devices to the next level, connecting them to the Internet and allowing devices to communicate with each other as well as share and store data to the cloud. By harnessing the power of the Internet, makers are able to process and analyze data in real-time and develop smarter devices.
More things are being connected to the Internet," says Edward Ross, director of inventor platforms for Intel's New Devices Group, and "not just because of personal devices, industrial machines and things like smart-cities technologies. Crowdfunding, 3D printing and the open source movement are driving more people to make their own things that connect to and run on the Internet.
These days, even more devices come equipped with Internet capabilities, making them less reliant on other devices such as smartphones. Just look at Intel's eye-catching smart bracelet MICA (My Intelligent Communication Accessory), which was unveiled by Opening Ceremony during New York's Fashion Week just days before it was shown to developers at the 2014 Internet Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco. Then there's Intel's latest smartwatch Basis Peak, with built-in technology that lets users tap into the Internet and analyze their vitals in real time.
What Intel Edison is doing for hardware, Intel's A-Wear is doing for big data. The cloud-based analytics program aggregates data from wearables and then sends and stores the information in the cloud. With the help of A-Wear, developers will now be able to accelerate the creation of applications for wearable devices by having access to real-time data. Instead of having to sift through and manage this information on their own, developers will have more time to improve applications and devices as a whole.
The development of A-Wear will have a major impact for manufacturers of wearables as well. "Imagine how useful it would be if a watch manufacturer could tell how often someone wears its device, where someone's wearing it, and what features he is actually using," Ron Kasabian, vice president and general manager of Intel's Big Data Solutions, told us at IDF. "There's a huge plethora of information for them to better understand their customers and the usage of their product with A-Wear."
Intel took big data, cloud computing, and wearable technology a step further when it partnered with the Michael J. Fox Foundation to find a better way to detect and treat Parkinson's disease. Test subjects used a wearable device that was synced to a smartphone to monitor their movements. The measured data was then uploaded securely to the cloud, where an open-source platform searched for anomalies. "In the area of health, wearables are not always about the consumer," said Kasabian. "A lot of what's being captured in wearables is to help understand what people are doing and to help make our lives better."
That's not to say consumers aren't in need of their own wearable advancements. As people continue to integrate multiple smart devices into their lives from Intel's MICA to its Basis Peak watches and SMS In-Ear Audio Headphones the need for a central place to view and collect data from all of their devices will become a must.
"Say you have a Basis watch, a FitBit, and a Nest thermostat at home," said Kasabian. "You have to go to the Nest thermostat to see what's going on there, you have to go to the FitBit site to see what's going on there, and so forth. Wouldn't it be great if there was a consumer centric not a product centric view of the world, that allowed you to create your own portal that showed all of your devices? In order for that to happen, manufacturers will have to open up their data and make it available for sharing."
Wearables, big data and cloud computing may have far to go in the future, but Intel is providing the software and hardware tools to amateurs and brand-name designers to help them develop more capable, better performing devices today.
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