As the Internet of Things seemingly wills itself into existence despite consumer apathy, the problem of obsolesce becomes acute. No one wants to shorten the life of big purchases like appliances or TVs, but by making everything “smart”, the computing power of these devices will almost certainly diminish before they physical wear out. Aside from feature updates to these devices, a lack of support for a platform also opens up the possibility of unpatched security issues down the line.
Intel put out a product that could possibly change how I view smart appliances. Their Compute Card is viewed as the successor to the Intel Compute Stick, but with a more specific mission. The Compute Stick was designed to be a low-end way to quickly turn a monitor into an all-in-one PC. It lacked for connectivity, having only HDMI and a single USB port. The Compute Card is more ambitious.
While the Compute Stick was a pretty compact piece of hardware, complete with an adorable little fan, the Card is a little more solid. It measures 94.5mm by 55mm by 5mm, just a little bigger than a typical credit card. Instead of just low power Atom chips, the Card has a CPU TDP limit of 6W, meaning it can use Core M and Y-series i5 processors. All of this with USB-C “plus extension” connectivity, that allows direct access to the PCIe bus.
The idea is that this would be the replaceable guts behind a smart appliance. Instead of replacing an entire appliance, you could just swap out the card. I’ve heard this idea bandied about for smart TVs for a while. There are a few issues. Even if a appliance manufacturer standardizes all models around a given software platform, they’ll either have settle on a set interface, or updated older devices will probably lose feature parity over time. The other issue is that while a Compute Card will be cheaper than a whole new appliance, I still doubt whether consumers will still be anxious to shell out $100-300 for an upgrade every few years. This may just be kicking the obsolesces can down the road a cycle or two. This is a little closer to a Roku for appliances, but it’s still more complicated, since appliances have basically no standardization like TVs.
We’ll get details on the actual device in June, which may clear some details up. Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Sharp are all on board from a computing front, although the Are Technically article doesn’t show that many big IoT brands on board from a product side. Until we get a little more specifics, the Compute Card is little more than a render of an interesting idea. We’ll know more this summer.
Andrew Cunningham comments:
Intel mostly missed the boat on smartphones, but the company is trying to establish a firm foothold in the ever-broadening marketplace for connected appliances and other smart things. Intel’s latest effort in this arena is its new “Compute Card,” a small 94.5mm by 55mm by 5mm slab that includes a CPU and GPU, RAM, storage, and wireless connectivity.
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