Intel Snaps Up Recon Instruments To Muscle Into Wearables Market

Chip manufacturer Intel said Wednesday it has purchased Recon Instruments, a Canadian smart eyewear company.

The acquisition will push Intel, which has made its name through processors for personal and desktop computers, further into the lucrative smart wearables market.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Intel has previously invested $4 million in Recon in 2013 through its Intel Capital Fund.

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"This acquisition gives Intel a talented, experienced wearable computing team that will help us expand the market for head mounted display products and technologies," Josh Walden, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's New Technology Group, wrote in a blog post.

Recon Instruments creates smart eyewear for sports enthusiasts, such as its $699 jet glasses, which include built-in GPS and motion tracking, as well as intelligent display and a built-in camera.

According to Walden, retailers of Recon products can continue selling and marketing their products under the Recon brand. He stressed that the team will partner with Intel's New Devices Group to develop smart device platforms for a broader set of market segments.

Partners said the acquisition will help the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company flourish in the burgeoning Internet-of-Things market.

"Intel sees that computing is entering the next wave, and it wants to be a part of that," said Todd Swank, senior director of product marketing at Equus Computer Systems, a Minneapolis-based custom system builder. "First it was desktop, then mobile, and now we're integrating computing into wearables, whether it's a band on our wrists, to vision and virtual reality."

The wearables market, as a whole, is beginning to flourish, as the IDC forecast Thursday that the smart wearables market would grow from 4.2 million shipments in 2014 to 89.4 million shipments in 2019.

As other big vendors like Microsoft begin to come out with smart headset products with virtual reality features, such as HoloLens, Intel has been carving out a space in the lucrative market.

"The current face-wearable market is in its infancy, meaning that sales are very low and experimentation is very high. It reminds me of where we were with wrist wearables two or three years ago," said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy. "Intel is doing the right thing ... they got caught behind in the mobile market with smartphones and tablets, [and now they're] making sure they'll be a leader in face wearables."

The chip company in December announced it would collaborate with Port Washington, N.Y.-based Luxottica Group to produce smart eyewear, with the first products from this collaboration launching in 2015, and later announced a partnership with TAG Heuer and Google to launch a Swiss smartwatch powered by Intel technology and Android Wear.

Intel also has developed its Intel Curie module, a hardware product based on its first purpose-built SoC for wearable devices.