Intel Works With FreedomPop To Cut Out Carriers In New WiFi-Based Smartphone

3 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

FreedomPop, Intel get funding for WiFi phone with free Internet.

Intel Capital, the venture arm of the tech giant, today announced $22 million in new investments across 10 startups. Thanks to a new investment from Intel Capital, upstart cellphone service provider FreedomPop aims next year to offer the first phone designed specifically to work with its service. This Los Angeles-based mobile phone and wireless internet provider aims to provide quality text, data, and voice services to those who want an alternative to the top mobile carriers in the country. As a point of comparison, during the same event last year, Intel announced $67 million of investments in 16 startups, but said that 2014 investments totalled $359 million. The company has been hoping that a new generation of chips, known as Sofia, will improve its position. “It may mean more to Intel than it does to FreedomPop in some respects,” FreedomPop CEO Stephen Stokols said in a telephone interview. “We are going to showcase their technology more than they could on their own, for sure.” Stokols said the move ended up being more appealing to his company than trying to work on its own to get a phone built specifically for the startup.

Today’s investments cover a range of companies running from later stages in larger and more established startups through to newer companies and emerging technologies, and come from five countries: China, Israel, Taiwan, the UK, and the U.S. FreedomPop will have some exclusivity with regard to certain markets, Stokols said, but the phone will also be sold in other countries where the carrier doesn’t do business.

Intel is not disclosing the value of any individual stake today: FreedomPop, a provider of “free” wireless voice and data services that makes its money on value-added options like voicemail, extra data allowances and so on. The idea is to design a true blue WiFi smartphone that will allow users to benefit from a more cost-effective network, saving on bills on data and cellular bills. Service from FreedomPop is currently offered in the U.S., using Sprint’s network, and in the United Kingdom, through a partnership with European carrier Three.

This is a strategic investment for FreedomPop, which plans to use the money to build out a new broadband service that will rival Google Project Fi — specifically, it will use Intel’s new SoFIA platform to launch a WiFi-based smartphone with free mobile services. LISNR, maker of Smart Tones, a “protocol that sends data over audio using a high-frequency, inaudible technology” that turns speakers and other media into beacons. Intel’s Platform Engineering Group VP and Gneral Manager of Phones at Intel Corp Sam Spangler said, “We look forward to working jointly with FreedomPop in improving the customer’s Wi-Fi first experience via this new smartphone utilizing FreedomPop’s Wi-Fi network”.

Details of the phone itself are being tightly held by the Intel and FreedomPop, though Stokols described it as aiming to pack as much technology as possible into a device that can sell for less than $200. Body Labs for collecting, digitizing and organizing data and information related to human body shape, pose and motion. “Its mission is to transform the human body into a digital platform upon and around which goods and services can be designed, produced, bought and sold.” (Not at all creepy!) Microprogram Information, an Internet of Things startup that provides turnkey hardware and software solutions and backend information management services for transportation services like rental bicycles, taxi fleets and mobile point-of-sale systems. Perfant Technology, out of China, develops imaging and video technologies for artificial intelligence, machine vision, 3-D reconstruction and virtual reality. Chargifi is a wireless charging network, billed as “power as a platform.” It offers this in a series of “Chargifi Spots” across public locations. KMLabs, a maker of laser systems for research and industrial applications, including multi-photon imaging, spectroscopy, OCT, THz-generation, CEP, micro-machining and attosecond, coherent soft X-Ray and EUV pulse generation as well as a “tabletop x-ray laser” light source.

Prieto Battery, a 3-D advanced battery provider “focused on commercializing a patented Lithium-ion battery technology that delivers transformational performance at a competitive cost using non-toxic materials with the ability to customize shapes.” In addition, Intel Capital announced that Parallel Machines*, an early stage company focused on providing highly optimized environments for advancing predictive analytics and machine learning, has joined its portfolio. The company, which has offices in Tel Aviv, Boston, California and Seattle, was founded in 2014 by renowned entrepreneurs with backgrounds in distributed computing, system programming, machine learning and mathematical statistics.

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