(TNS) -- For decades, Intel's primary relationship with retailers has been a distant one.
The Oregon chipmaker has worked with point-of-sale companies to provide processors for the computers that ring up sales in the majority of America's stores.
But Intel wants more. At a retail trade conference in New York this week, the company showcased its Internet of Things platform, comprised of sensors and chips that can be tailored to individual retailers' needs.
With interactive mirrors, smart shelves and real-time inventory trackers, Intel is throwing its weight behind chips and sensors it hopes will drive the future of retail powered by the Internet of Things.
IoT is a wonky term for connected appliances, accessories and other everyday items with tiny computers inside. It's an emerging market and one Intel badly wants a share of as it looks to expand beyond the fading PC business.
At the conference, Joe Jensen, who runs Intel's retail solutions division, said the chipmaker formally entered the IoT arena two years ago.
Now, it's working with retailers like Nordstrom, Brooks Brothers and Levi's, providing "invisible technology," as Jensen calls it, to fuel the store of the future.
This store is more accessible than ever for retailers, thanks to the dropping price of technologies like RFID (radio frequency identification), which wirelessly transfers data over electromagnetic fields to identify and track tags attached to products.
"RFID sensors used to be thousands of dollars. Now, this sensor is $400," Jensen said, pointing to a real-time inventory tracking sensor Intel made for Levi's.
Intel's Internet of Things platform Intel employees demonstrate the chipmaker's 3-D foot measurement scanner, which it developed for Nordstrom.
So while the technology used to be prohibitively expensive for retailers (and still is for grocery stores, with inexpensive products and razor-thin margins), more are adopting it.
Jensen said Intel is providing Internet of Things technology to "hundreds and hundreds" of retailers.
Paula Rosenblum, managing partner at Miami-based Retail Systems Research, said the move by Intel is a good one, but thinks they might be late to the IoT party.
"Intel's gone back and forth in terms of their vertical emphasis over the years," she said. "So now they're back in, which is smart, because after all, they've been losing market share to all these mobile devices which are not Intel-powered. I think that's why they're expressing an interest."
Intel has plenty of competition, though, because many companies make RFID chips and readers, Rosenblum said.
"I think Intel is late in terms of having a sensor platform," she said. "They're not typically the low-cost provider."
At any rate, the IoT platform only makes up a small fraction of its business, she said. IoT accounted for just over 4 percent of Intel's revenue last year, but the chipmaker, eager to increase that share, has devoted an entire segment of the company to developing technology for IoT.
Internet of Things technology has been around since the introduction of RFID in 2003. But it isn't always practical: In many ways, RFID is a solution looking for a problem, Rosenblum said.
And though the price of the technology has dropped, it still might be too expensive, especially if the retailers need to install multiple sensors in each store.
"This year, I don't see that stores will have the money to invest in that," she said. "In the future? Maybe, because it saves the store time and energy."
Shawn DuBravec, chief economist of the (the producer of the annual Consumer Electronics Show), said it's only a matter of time before retailers adopt the technology more widely.
Eventually, the technology will save retailers so much money they won't be able to afford not to use it, he said.
DuBravec views the development of the smart store as basically inevitable.
"There will be a broad digitization and sensorization of every environment," he said. "At some point, everything is going to be connected."
Oregonian reporter Mike Rogoway contributed to this story.
©2016 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.