Intel’s New Development Board

Picture a Raspberry Pi, Times Ten

This week, at the Intel Developer Forum held in San Francisco, Intel introduced a new PC development board called Joule, a kit targeted at developers, entrepreneurs and established enterprises in the Internet of things (IoT). Several Intel partners, including Microsoft and GE, are already demonstrating potential applications on top of Joule and a French company called Pivothead demonstrated augmented reality safety glasses powered by Joule that will be used by Airbus employees.

Joule is a PC development kit in the same mould as the very popular and extremely affordable Raspberry Pi, which is priced at about $35. But Intel’s Joule costs $369, removing the playful nature of the single-board PC movement. If Pi is for hobbyists, Joule is for serious enthusiasts.

Joule follows Intel’s other PC IoT kits such as Galileo, introduced in 2013, Edison and Curie (see A Tiny Chipset in Action), which turned out to be relatively successful products contributing to Intel’s IoT strategy. The boards have proven to be popular with enthusiasts who require small modules for everything from small prototypes to commercial boards.

Although it won’t have the cult following of Raspberry Pi, Joule will likely prove popular with developers looking to take an IoT concept from a prototype into production. Uses will include robots, drones, smart devices and wearables. Joule supports Linux and Microsoft’s Windows 10 IoT Core operating systems.

A key feature of Joule is support for Intel’s 3D RealSense camera, which enables a device to create 3D maps of its surroundings. With 3D RealSense, a camera can recognize gestures, track objects, measure distances and, with the proper programming, recognize human emotions.

Joule is available in two models, 570x and 550x. The Joule 570x developer kit is already available for purchase at the Intel Developer Forum and will otherwise begin shipping in September 2016.

Like many maturing tech companies, Intel is leaning on major trends — in this case IoT — for growth. After missing out on the smartphone boom, a hardware segment that itself is now maturing, Intel is well down the path on a journey to transition out of its PC-centric environment. The company is doing a respectable job of building a thought-leading position and remaining a major force as the next wave of connected products builds — reflected in Intel’s products for virtual reality headsets and drones that it highlighted at the Intel Developer Forum.