Qualcomm Turns Its Focus to Connected Cameras, 5G

Qualcomm officials this week unveiled the company's plans for connected cameras, introduced a 5G modem chipset and rolled out three new mobile chips.

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Qualcomm is driving deeper into the internet of things and 5G connectivity.

At the mobile chip maker's 4G/5G Summit in Hong Kong this week, Qualcomm officials unveiled plans to expand its reach in the camera space by developing hardware and software designed for video and imaging devices beyond the cameras found in mobile devices. The portfolio also includes a camera reference design based on the Snapdragon 625 system-on-a-chip (SoC).

At the same time, the company announced that it is designing a 5G modem chipset that will start sampling later next year that OEMs will be able to build into their cellular devices and that carriers will be able to use in their early 5G trials and deployments.

In addition, Qualcomm also rolled out three new Snapdragon chips that deliver improved performance and enhanced features over their predecessors.

The broad range of the announcement reflects the effort by Qualcomm—the world's largest vendor of low-power SoCs for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets—to expand into emerging growth areas, including the internet of things (IoT) and 5G, which is still several years away from standardization but is becoming a focus of component makers, networking vendors and telecommunications companies.

Surveillance cameras and other connected imaging devices are bringing more intelligence, analytics and processing power to the network edge. Qualcomm's connected camera portfolio is designed to provide the technologies needed by everything from dashcams and IP security cameras to bodycams and VR/360 cameras.

"It's more about providing a complete ecosystem," Jim Merrick, marketing director for IoT at Qualcomm, told eWEEK.

The company is building the portfolio atop the years of experience it has with cameras in mobile devices, and it's based on the Snapdragon 625 chip, which already is used in smartphones. The 14-nanometer SoC uses 25 percent less power than its predecessor while improving CPU performance with GPU and digital signal processor (DSP) acceleration that officials said will enable advanced imaging and deep-learning processing. The chip includes an eight-core, 64-bit ARM-based CPU.

It can process 24-megapixel images and 4K video, includes an integrated X9 LTE modem and supports WiFi 802.11ac, Bluetooth and GNSS. The integrated Adreno 506 GPU will support VR/360 cameras, and the chip comes with such security features as secure boot, cryptographic hardware engines and a trusted execution environment.

The portfolio will include Linux support along with its Android support, an API for video analytics and a connected camera software development kit (SDK). There also is a Snapdragon 625 IP camera reference design that will help manufacturers more quickly bring cameras to market. The reference design will be available to select OEMs by the end of the year, officials said.

Qualcomm also is looking to get a head start in the burgeoning 5G space. Standards for the next generation of cellular connectivity aren't expected before 2020, but players in the networking and mobile areas are beginning to move quickly in that direction, even as 4G LTE continues to roll out and be improved.

5G promises significant increases in speed—as much as 10 to 100 times more than LTE, which will mean being able to download a full-length, high-definition movie on a smartphone in seconds rather than minutes. It also will offer improvements in capacity and latency, all of which will be increasingly important as the IoT continues to grow—with some predicting more than 50 billion connected devices globally by 2020—video accounts for more of network traffic and self-driving vehicles demand real-time, zero-latency communications.

Qualcomm officials expect to have the Snapdragon X50 5G modem ready for sampling in the second half of next year, with the first commercial products integrated with the modem available in the first half of 2018. The modem initially will support use in the millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum in the 28GHz band and offer multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) antenna technology that includes adaptive beam-forming and beam-tracking techniques. It will come with 800MHz bandwidth support and peak download speeds of up to 5 gigabits per second.