CES is a great time to see some novel inventions. Some are cool tech demos, while others can lead into real products. Intel’s Compute Card is something that sits between the two. How would you like a PC that’s slightly thicker than a credit card, that you can carry around in your wallet?
No, I’m not talking about a smartphone – that ship sailed and Intel struggled to climb on board. What we’re talking about today is Intel’s Compute Card. It’s set to replace the Compute Stick that is currently available, just thinner – a lot thinner actually at 5mm thick.
It’s a fully self-contained PC with CPU, GPU, RAM, storage and wireless, all on a device that’s not much bigger than a credit card. While it’s certainly portable, it’s not meant to be a portable device. The idea is for it to be plugged into other devices either as a secure system or as an upgradeable processing powerhouse for something like a TV.
As devices age and software becomes more advanced, older hardware can struggle to keep up. Rather than completely replacing the system, the compute card could be swapped out, extending the life of the device providing the rest of it still works.
Considering the size, don’t expect it to be exceptionally powerful (although more than fast enough for most IoT devices). It will more than likely be the equivalent of a Celeron or ultra-low power i3, similar to what’s inside the current Compute Stick.
The Compute Card only has a single connection and is meant to plug into the equivalent of a dock or port that provides all the I/O and display capabilities (or sensors for IoT devices). A more immediate use would be something like a kiosks, vending machine, and other PoS (point of sale) machines where they do not get replaced for long periods of time, but can benefit from upgraded internals (such as extra connectivity or more powerful software). It will use a modified USB Type-C port called USB-C Plus Extension.
It’s unlikely to gain much traction in the consumer space with things like TVs, since TV companies are more inclined to sell you a whole new TV than let you have the option to use it as a dumb display. IoT devices might want to leverage the capabilities of the card due to its small footprint and x86 functionality instead of a more traditional ARM-based solution like an Arduino or Raspberry Pi.
In the commercial space, Intel could be on to a real winner. It can be tucked away for either easy access so that someone can walk up to a terminal to plug in their own user environment, or locked down tight on vending machines. The only possible catch is how to access the internal storage to transfer the environment of one card over to another, but that’s something for the OEMs to figure out.