Intel Snaps Up Wearables Startup for More Than $100M

Intel Corp. (NASDAQ:INTC) won an auction to buy Basis, which makes a health-tracker watch with advanced sensors, for a rumored $100 million to $150 million, according to sources who spoke to TechCrunch.

Earlier last month, there was speculation over whether Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) or Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) might be interested in buying the company, which is perhaps best known for making a device that provides some of the most accurate data of any of the currently available products in the health watch lineup.

But the announcement may lead readers to wonder: Why Intel? Why not Apple, or Google, companies that actually produce branded hardware?

TechCrunch and PCWorld suspect the buy was a bid to stay competitive in a tech market that seems to have gone crazy for wearables within the past year or so. As previously reported, Apple has rounded up a team of fitness and health experts to presumably assist on its star-studded iWatch team, although the iWatch itself has yet to be officially announced.

There’s also been a lot of speculation around a Google smartwatch, which many believe is “imminent,” and tech companies like Samsung, Motorola, Sony, LG, and HTC have already jumped into the market, although the results have largely been a bit of a letdown. Even Qualcomm, another chip-making company, has released its version of the smartwatch — the company’s Toq was launched in November.

Intel, in other words, needs to jump on the wearables wave early, rather than playing an expensive and exhausting game of catchup, like it has with virtually all other recent tech trends.

TechCrunch reports that Intel was heavy on wearables at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, where they showcased designs for a Bluetooth headset named Jarvis and a smart chip they’ve dubbed Edison. “By acquiring Basis,” TechCrunch says, Intel “gains access to a team that built one of the most powerful and comprehensive wearables to date, which it then can set upon its own designs.”

While Fitbit and Jawbone, Basis’s competitors, certainly have more of the health watch marketshare, what Basis has that neither Fitbit nor Jawbone does is exactly what makes the company appealing to a chip-maker like Intel: The watch has more advanced, more interesting sensors than its rivals.

The sensors are what Intel is really interested in, PCWorld says, and the Basis band includes not only an accelerometer but sensors for heart rate, skin temperature, and perspiration, as well. Those three data points are helpful because together, they provide the most accurate estimate of calories burned.

TechCrunch reports that as it stands, Intel’s rivals — such as Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, and STMicroelectronics — are ahead of the game on sensors for the new wearables market. It might just be that the pretty penny Intel shelled out for Basis is an attempt at turning that around.

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