Intel’s Compute Card is a PC the size of a few stacked credit cards

All right – it’s a tad bigger than a few stacked credit cards, but you get the idea. The Compute Card presents a novel idea that prepares manufacturers and their appliances for the future; one where Intel gets to earn all the money.

You might have noticed the sudden surge of smart appliances at CES; there’s a refrigerator that runs Windows 10, for example; these appliances show up at CES every year and leave us hoping for a better future at the end of it all.

One problem, though: these devices are all using processors that could quickly become obsolete.

The Tech Cycle

There used to be a time when people could buy a washing machine, and it would continue to work for a decade or longer. Today, that’s changed; the washing machine is now smart, and there’s a smarter one coming out next year – that’s guaranteed.

This results in a collision of tech cycle; the washing machine itself can still work great for the next decade, but the processor powering that fancy artificial intelligence inside of it can be outdated within a couple of years.

The Escape

Intel’s solution is to detach the computing parts from the appliance parts. The Compute Card consists of everything that a computer requires: it has an unspecified 7th generation Intel Core processor, some memory, some storage, and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth built-in to it.

Intel has managed to put all of that inside a card that’s 94.5mm by 55mm and is 5mm in thickness. A credit card, for example, is 0.76mm thick.

It uses a modified USB-C connector to connect with any appliance that can support it, and can carry USB and PCIe data connectivity along with HDMI, or DisplayPort video; it’s essentially a modified Thunderbolt 3 connector.

The idea is to sell this card to manufacturers; your next Windows 10 powered fridge could come with an Intel Compute Card on the back.

If the software on the refrigerator gets too announced for that measly processor to handle; just get a new Computer Card, plug it in, and enjoy a smarter refrigerator, that’s still the same.

The Realization

This nice technology poses an issue for appliance manufacturers; they can no longer use a new smart feature as a selling point – it’s all in a Compute Card, which can be plugged into the last year’s refrigerator. That’s the entire point of it, after all.

Still, Intel hopes that this won’t be the case; Intel’s current partners for Compute Card include folks like Dell, Lenovo, HP, Sharp for the computing side, while Seneca Delta, InFocus, DTx, TabletKiosk, and Pasuntech on the commercial side.

More information from Intel will be released sometime in mid-2017, while these partners will make their own announcements when they are ready.

One thing is certain: if Cortana is to come to every toaster around you; Intel’s Compute Card – or an idea like it – needs to be successful.

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