Intel bungs PC on an SD: Tiny computer for Internet of Things and wearables

Edison is x86 giant's latest attempt to cope with an ARM world


CES 2014 Intel has put a PC into an SD card-sized casing. Dubbed Edison, the micro-microcomputer marks the chip giant’s first attempt to address the emerging wearable computing business; part of its strategy to cope with a world where punters buy far fewer traditional personal computers.

Or, more specifically, where ARM and not Intel is the dominant processor platform.

Edison is based on Intel’s Quark chip, which it launched last year as its attempt to muscle in on that other flavour-of-the-month market: the so-called Internet of Things. It also reflects the company’s new-found keenness on the "maker" community.

Quark, a 32-bit low-power x86 processor, sits inside Intel’s Arduino-compatible Raspberry Pi-alike Galileo board computer. Edison takes the same chip, connects it to a wee bit of LPDDR2 memory and Flash storage, and plugs in Bluetooth 4.0 Smart - aka LE - and Wi-Fi for broader connectivity.

Intel Edison

While Edison is based on the established SD card form-factor, Intel hasn’t confirmed the card uses the storage format’s electrical interface. We assume it does: there would be little point in adopting the SD card size and shape if developers couldn’t fit a low-cost SD card slot onto their project boards to take the Intel card.

Intel’s approach is identical to that of Anglo-American Internet of Things startup Electric Imp, which has been offering an SD card-sized device for almost a year. Unlike Edison, the ARM-based Imp, in either its slot-in SD card or solder-on form, lacks Bluetooth Smart for device-to-device connectivity. Instead, it uses Wi-Fi to connect code running on the card to web- or app-based user interfaces via the firm’s servers.

Indeed, that’s a key aspect Edison lacks: a dedicated server infrastructure developers - be they individual makers, small startups or even major OEMs - can leverage to link IoT hardware embedded in their products to apps on users’ phones, tablets or traditional computers.

To be fair, Edison is aimed more at the wearables market than IoT applications, though its form-factor makes it suitable for both. In any case, Imp is available now; Edison won’t be available, Intel said, until the summer.

Edison was unveiled yesterday during Intel CEO Brian Krzanich’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) keynote. He also whipped out various wearable reference designs, including a Bluetooth headset to communicate with phones’ personal assistant apps, such as Siri and Google Now, and a pair of earphones with integrated biometric sensors. ®

Similar topics

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Intel delivers first discrete Arc desktop GPUs ... in China
    Why not just ship it in Narnia and call it a win?

    Updated Intel has said its first discrete Arc desktop GPUs will, as planned, go on sale this month. But only in China.

    The x86 giant's foray into discrete graphics processors has been difficult. Intel has baked 2D and 3D acceleration into its chipsets for years but watched as AMD and Nvidia swept the market with more powerful discrete GPU cards.

    Intel announced it would offer discrete GPUs of its own in 2018 and promised shipments would start in 2020. But it was not until 2021 that Intel launched the Arc brand for its GPU efforts and promised discrete graphics silicon for desktops and laptops would appear in Q1 2022.

    Continue reading
  • AMD bests Intel in cloud CPU performance study
    Overall price-performance in Big 3 hyperscalers a dead heat, says CockroachDB

    AMD's processors have come out on top in terms of cloud CPU performance across AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform, according to a recently published study.

    The multi-core x86-64 microprocessors Milan and Rome and beat Intel Cascade Lake and Ice Lake instances in tests of performance in the three most popular cloud providers, research from database company CockroachDB found.

    Using the CoreMark version 1.0 benchmark – which can be limited to run on a single vCPU or execute workloads on multiple vCPUs – the researchers showed AMD's Milan processors outperformed those of Intel in many cases, and at worst statistically tied with Intel's latest-gen Ice Lake processors across both the OLTP and CPU benchmarks.

    Continue reading
  • Linux Foundation thinks it can get you interested in smartNICs
    Step one: Make them easier to program

    The Linux Foundation wants to make data processing units (DPUs) easier to deploy, with the launch of the Open Programmable Infrastructure (OPI) project this week.

    The program has already garnered support from several leading chipmakers, systems builders, and software vendors – Nvidia, Intel, Marvell, F5, Keysight, Dell Tech, and Red Hat to name a few – and promises to build an open ecosystem of common software frameworks that can run on any DPU or smartNIC.

    SmartNICs, DPUs, IPUs – whatever you prefer to call them – have been used in cloud and hyperscale datacenters for years now. The devices typically feature onboard networking in a PCIe card form factor and are designed to offload and accelerate I/O-intensive processes and virtualization functions that would otherwise consume valuable host CPU resources.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022