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Sit back, relax, and let Intel's Compute Card make your appliances smarter

As appliances become more connected than ever, Intel took note of an issue that will arise as the technology evolves. “I’ve only owned two fridges in my life, and when I buy my next one, I expect to own it for the rest of my life,” chuckles Bruce Patterson, marketing manager for the Compute Stick. “But at some point down the road, I may want to update the smart functionality.” That’s where the Intel Compute Card comes in.

The object Patterson produces from his pocket, not much larger than a credit card, is packing a fully functional system — CPU, SSD, RAM, and Wi-Fi — with a pair of ports on one end, which Intel says are USB Type-C with “extensions” that enable advanced connectivity like PCIe — with some room to spare for future improvements.

More: Intel crams its freshly baked seventh-gen CPUs into five new NUC mini PCs

It may seem like a smaller Compute Stick on the surface, but the Compute Card plays a very different role in the Intel system lineup. Hardware manufacturers, which already include big names like HP, Dell, InFocus, Lenovo, LG, and Sharp, will use Intel’s specifications to build the Compute Card into their new products.

It’s an easy way for a company that does’t have experience producing tiny smart internals to add the functionality into a new device. Now LG doesn’t have to figure out how to produce the computing portion of its fridge, it can just outsource the problem. Even better, it means you don’t need to replace your fridge when you want new features — you can just upgrade the card.

It also allows for some novel new advancements in modular security. The card can be built to physically latch into a device, or only release with software control, preventing unauthorized access. It can even be tied to a specific system, so inserting it into a card dock elsewhere wouldn’t work, thanks to a TPM module.

No word on pricing or system specifics yet, but Patterson says it will scale up from Atom to full Intel Core processors with time. It’s also not the kind of system consumers would buy, although Intel says the idea of a NUC-sized dock for interested enthusiasts has been kicked around.