Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Silicon wars heat up in 2018 - Qualcomm pushes into automotive

by James E. Carroll

You might not expect the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to be a showcase opportunity for silicon players such as Intel, Qualcomm or NVIDIA. After all, Mobile World Congress 2018 opens in Barcelona in less than 50 days and it is here that we expect to see the latest cellular and Wi-Fi technologies. But the race is on to build new ecosystems for autonomous vehicles, smart cities, connected homes, etc.

In the automotive sector, Qualcomm holds a strategic position with its LTE modems which are currently used in millions of 2018 models from most of the major auto manufacturers. Through its Mobileye acquisition, Intel holds a strong position with next-gen sensors for autonomous vehicle functions. Meanwhile, NVIDIA established an early lead with SoC solutions for the digital dashboards and instrument panels of high-end autos, and this is leading to opportunities to become the silicon platform for the AI-powered cockpits of future autonomous vehicles. All of the silicon players are aiming for this goal.


Many are predicting that AI-powered autonomous vehicles will become “smartphones on wheels” or “rolling data centres.” Some forecasts put the amount of data generated by an autonomous vehicle at upwards of 4 TB per day, which is not hard to imagine if each vehicle is equipped with a dozen HD video cameras and multiple LIDARs, not to mention the data consumption needs of multiple passengers each playing with their own entertainment system.

Qualcomm is making  inroads with Ford and BYD

Qualcomm and Ford are collaborating on the development of advanced connectivity systems for vehicles using Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) technology.

C-V2X is designed to allow vehicles to communicate directly with other vehicles, pedestrian devices, and roadside infrastructure, such as traffic signs and construction zones, without the involvement of a cellular network, or cellular network subscription.

C-V2X field validations are expected to begin in 1H 2018 in San Diego, along with additional trials in Detroit.

Qualcomm's first C-V2X chipset is expected to be commercially available the second half of 2018.

Qualcomm and Ford are also working on automotive telematics platforms with integrated Qualcomm Snapdragon LTE modems.

Qualcomm also announced a major deal with BYD ( "Build Your Dreams"), the Shenzhen-based manufacturer known for its high volume production of electric automobiles, buses, forklifts, rechargeable batteries, trucks, etc., as well as for having attracted a $230 million investment from Warren Buffet back in 2008. BYD’s stock price has been booming as of late, especially after the Chinese government announced plans to phase out fossil fuel cars in favour of EVs.

Over the next few design cycles the requirements for in-vehicle displays are expected to include the need for sufficient bandwidth to stream high-definition videos onto very high-resolution displays, while supporting audio and video streaming from multiple devices through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. We already see Teslas, Audis, BMWs and many other cars with large digital displays. BYDs electric cars will have to compete.

Under the deal announced this week at CES, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820A Automotive platform will be used for integrated infotainment and digital cluster systems in electric vehicles starting in 2019. The infotainment and digital cluster systems will be integrated into BYD’s single electronic control unit (ECU).

The Snapdragon 820A Automotive platform consists of customized Qualcomm Kryo CPU, Qualcomm Hexagon 680 DSP with Hexagon Vector eXtensions (HVX) and Qualcomm Adreno GPUs. The platform also supports vehicle sensors, which will be key to computer vision and driver assistance systems. Qualcomm is pursuing this too with its Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine.

“As infotainment systems become more relevant in purchase decisions, it is important that automakers are armed with the industry’s most comprehensive and advanced solutions,” said Nakul Duggal, vice president of product management, Qualcomm Technologies.”

Qualcomm Mesh Network for Smart Homes

There is a lot of CES buzz around smart speaker systems for the home, headphones and earbuds with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa on-board. Many are interesting products with the potential to keep millions -- and someday billions—of consumers firmly attached to the digital empires of the hyperscale players. At the networking layer, all of these gizmos will rely on robust home networks. Today, most home set-ups include some sort of broadband modem connected to a single WiFi hotspot. That’s not enough, say the vendors! Why not build an in-home mesh with a WiFi repeater in every room?

Qualcomm Technologies is currently working on mesh networking with a number of start-ups, including Cognitive Systems Corp., Origin Wireless and Lunera.

  • Cognitive Systems offers its “Aura” WiFi Motion technology available for any product based on the Qualcomm Mesh Networking Platform.  Aura’s WiFi Motion software enables advanced motion detection using RF motion algorithms and machine learning.
  • Origin Wireless will be using the Qualcomm Mesh Networking Platform to further expand their motion-detection, vital sign detection, well-being monitoring and home security software to bring new use cases to their suite of smart home solutions.
  • Lunera, an IoT infrastructure company, will be utilizing the Qualcomm Mesh Networking Platform to upgrade the connectivity in their newly announced Lunera Ambient Compute software platform, which can connect billions of IoT devices to the cloud. 


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