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Intel's Curie Module lets anyone build wearables the size of a button

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Intel spent most of 2014 shifting its focus to wearables by buying fitness band company Basis Science and creating partnerships with fashion companies. But CEO Brian Krzanich just announced a major extension of that focus at the company's CES keynote presentation with the Intel Curie Module. It's a low-power hardware module that could be used to build wearables out of things like rings, bags, pendants, or glasses.

The module uses a new version of Intel's Quark chip — the Quark SE — to enable such compact wearable technologies. It's capable of being integrated into such small form factors that Krzanich even showed it off in a coat button on stage. Curie uses Bluetooth LE and includes a low-power sensor hub, a pattern-matching accelerator that allows for accurate gesture recognition, and a six-axis combination accelerometer and gyroscope, all crucial ingredients for making compact wearables. On top of all that Curie runs Viper, an open-source software that can take the information gathered by those internals and use it for things like activity recognition or step tracking.

Intel did most of the work for you

The hope is that companies use Curie to bypass difficult developmental steps like designing circuitboards or tweaking Bluetooth radios, according to Mike Bell, VP and GM of Intel's New Devices Group. As he told me a few hours before the press conference, "[Curie] essentially gets you pretty far along towards a product, you really just have to add your secret sauce on top of this and you’d have a pretty great wearable product."

Bell used the breadth of creative ideas being spawned by the company's Edison platform — the more broadly-focused predecessor to Curie — as a reference point for why he believes Curie is important. "We saw all these people had all these great ideas, but the barrier to entry to this stuff is pretty high because the technology is very small and very integrated."

The Intel Curie Module will be available in the second half of 2015.

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