The Intel Compute Card Provides Partners Big IoT Opportunities In A Small Package

Intel lifted the curtain on the Compute Card in January, saying the product can bring the power of connectivity to virtually any product. Partners, Intel has said, are in the best position to drive sales for the card through vertical market knowledge and customization capabilities.

"The channel is fantastic for [the Compute Card] because it isn't defined," Intel's Todd Garrigues, Americas marketing director, channels and distribution, told CRN. "We let the partners help us solve those problems. The bottom line is this is another great new innovation, and it'll be a lot of fun to see what innovation partners can create in different markets. I'm excited to see [what happens in] the second half of the year in the partner community. It's a great opportunity for partners."

The 5mm-thick Compute Card, which will be released in mid-2017, already is in the hands of channel partners, who are using it to power the next generation of Intel-based Internet of Things devices and help businesses more quickly embrace IoT applications, said Garrigues.

[Intel Solutions Summit 2017]

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Intel envisions a world where smart devices such as kiosks, security cameras and refrigerators are powered by Compute Cards. For instance, the Compute Card can plug into a customer's smart TV or other appliance to extend the processing hardware inside it, as opposed to buying a new device. The Compute Card also enables users to transform their appliances into IoT devices such as digital kiosks or signage screens.

The Compute Card has an array of features that play into a simplified design for customers, according to Intel. The small card is equipped with a standardized I/O interface to support multiple devices, using a variant of the USB-C port called the USB-C plus extension to plug into other systems.

That feature, the company said, enables connected devices to directly access not only HDMI and DisplayPort video inputs, but also USB and PCIe inputs.

One of the biggest and most practical applications of the Compute Card is that it can be added to any certified device to increase its compute capabilities and life cycle.

Torrance, Calif.-based Intel partner TabletKiosk, one of the first adopters of Intel's new product, is developing a mobile platform for the health-care market around the Compute Card.

"Our main focus [in the client compute space] has been on the Compute Card," said Martin Smekal, president and CEO of Tablet-Kiosk. "We are excited about the platform and the possibilities it has to offer. The Compute Card allows us to build [applications] at a low cost and customize specs for the client so they can have a very specific solution."

The company, which is in the early stages of a prototype phase, is equipping HD X-ray machines with Compute Cards so that customers don't have to retool their whole machines if they want to upgrade. "Customers can easily swap out their Compute Cards, avoiding the long and arduous validation cycles behind upgrading in the health-care space," said Smekal.

The card comes packed with the option of a range of processors, including the seventh-generation Intel Core vPro. According to Intel, the Compute Card features low-wattage computing with cooling integrated in the dock. In addition to processing power, memory, storage and I/O capabilities, the Compute Card packs built-in, integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless connectivity.

The Compute Card also comes with secure docking so whether it is installed internally or inserted externally into devices, it remains secure through what Intel calls an "integrated locking mechanism."

"Partners have a lot of ideas - like digital signage or you can potentially monitor our panel and then upgrade the compute model and change the functionality. There's been a lot of those kinds of applications," said Garrigues.