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Qualcomm at CES: The Big Pivot to 5G for Homes, Cars and IoT

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Qualcomm’s press event was what opened the CES event for me this year, and it didn’t disappoint. The firm showcased a wide variety of technologies that could better connect our homes, our cars, our cities, and even our bodies to the internet. I was struck by the fact that if the firm ever started truly thinking about the synergies between these efforts, which it will eventually do, it could become a massive change engine for the world and define the next decade.

5G Status on Smartphones

CES really isn’t a Smartphone event, that will happen later in the quarter at Mobile World Congress. However, 5G is key to everything Qualcomm is announcing at the show, so they opened with evidence that 5g is moving far faster than 4G did. Currently, there are over 45 carriers that have deployed 5G with 200M 5G phones expected to ship this year. This will jump to over 750M in 2022, and this is on track to have over 1B 5G connections by 2023. Currently, Qualcomm represents that 5G is currently running two years ahead of the 4G rollout. Design wins with Smartphones are running between 2x and 3x what Qualcomm reported on their last generation of product offerings showcasing that Qualcomm’s 5G leadership is confirming them as the wireless technology market leader.

5G+Wi-Fi 6

One of the big changes they are talking about is the use of 5G to replace wired broadband use. Many OEMs are building modems that use 5G to get wireless to the home and then Wi-Fi 6 to spread wireless capability around the home.

5G PC

Qualcomm argues that your next laptop will be a 5G PC connected to a Microsoft Azure Cloud. Lenovo was featured as the key independent OEM, providing hardware support. They launched the Yoga 5G laptop at this event promising 24 hours of battery life, eSIM support, unique antenna’s (patented), and an adaptive USB charging port (it can charge the laptop or charge your other wireless devices). Part of the unique power implementation is that the battery has a unique way to cool the battery, which allows for even faster charging. This is a technology showcase for both Qualcomm and Lenovo.

AI

Qualcomm showcased their AI 100 offering for the data center targeted at AI inference. Adding to this is an edge Inference product using 5G to provide a commercial offering for remote implementations. This potentially opens the door to the future of distributed AIs that work across great distances from distributed and centralized data centers to endpoints all working in concert to digitize and interact with the world around us. This once again showcases CES as the place to be to see what the near-term future will bring (while providing indications of what the world will likely look like in 2030).

Automotive

This is one of the most exciting new businesses for Qualcomm. Their focus is to increase safety while also improving the experiences inside the car cabin. Qualcomm started its automotive business with GM OnStar back in 2002 (and the firm is expected to use Qualcomm in their coming autonomous car efforts aggressively). Also, Qualcomm’s technology is in 300M cars today. This gives them the #1 position in Telematics and next-generation infotainment. For those of us complaining about the slowness of our in-car systems, Qualcomm’s presented performance gains promise our next cars will be far less annoying than our current cars likely are. For instance, looking to the future, they will be providing even more enhancements to telematics with more precise vehicle positioning, better in-car entertainment, cloud management, and ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) and autonomous driving.

Peter Virk, who is the director of Jaguar/Land Rover, was brought on stage to talk about the future of the car. Jaguar has a vision of zero. Zero emissions, zero accidents, and zero congestion. Their coming cars will always be connected and always up to date. They are showcasing the new Land Rover Defender at the show, which is their most advanced vehicle to date. Given I own several Jaguars, I was a tad put out by this focus on the sister brand.

Talking about autonomous driving, which is a huge topic at the show this year, they announced the Qualcomm autonomy platform named Snapdragon Ride. Their platform provides 700 TOPS at 130 Watts. Their solution can scale from Level 1-2 (active safety) to level 4+ near full autonomy. This product will be available in the first half of this year and cars by 2023. This time frame is consistent with other offerings being announced at this event.

GM has been a big user of Qualcomm technology and is expected to be aggressive with the deployment of this new platform.

China has apparently aggressively been freeing up spectrum of C-V2X and here at the show they have demonstrating C-V2P. The first is vehicle to vehicle communication and the second is vehicle to pedestrian communication. This last could help reduce dramatically fatalities tied to vehicles hitting people. (This could be a lifesaver for folks who are so focused on their Smartphones they walk into traffic).

Another area they are advancing in is vehicle to cloud connectivity, which should enhance all the firm's connected and autonomous car efforts.

Wearable Devices

As almost an aside, they announced the most advanced Qualcomm based Smartwatch yet to challenge Apple’s position as the segment leader further. The Suunto 7 Smartwatch appears to go the farthest to match Apple watch capabilities, but it isn’t tied to the Apple platform, providing what appears to be a powerful alternative to those of us who use Android phones. I’m currently using the Diesel Smartwatch, which is also based on Qualcomm technology, but this Suunto appears far more advanced.

Wrapping Up: The Real Power Will Be in Synergy

Firms like Qualcomm often advance by having separate groups work on distinct market segments. Then, once critical mass is achieved, they begin to think about the synergy between the segments, and then the real magic occurs. Smartphones talking to cars, Smartwatches tied to advanced distributed AI systems, and PC seamlessly connected cloud resources and all this stuff able to inter-react with each other. Imagine your Smartwatch as the key to your car, your car seamlessly connected to your in-home entertainment systems so you can move between venues and continue the same movie or show, and AIs that are smart and keep you from accidents either caused by you or caused by others.

This is a future world where everything is connected, and until we get there, we can only imagine how our lives will change. Holy crap and this was just my first CES event.

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