Qualcomm and Nvidia are looking to expand their mobile chip technologies beyond smartphones and tablets and into cars, smart TVs and other systems on the list of increasingly connected and intelligent systems.
Both vendors unveiled new chips at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2014 that build off their capabilities in mobile devices to make moves in other systems. Neither company is looking to move out of smartphones and tablets, but like other vendors in the tech world, they see opportunities in the growing Internet of things, where massive numbers of systems—from appliances to cars to surveillance cameras—are connected and equipped with intelligence.
In Qualcomm’s case, officials are following up the release last year of the Snapdragon 800 chips for mobile devices with the Snapdragon 802, introduced at the event in Las Vegas Jan. 6. The Snapdragon 802 system-on-a-chip (SoC) is aimed at the growing numbers of smart TVs, smart set-top boxes and smart digital media adapters.
The chip includes features developed for TVs, including broadcast, analog and digital I/O interfaces and a custom Android Software Framework based on the latest Android 4.4 Kit Kat release, enabling system makers to create solutions optimized for the Google mobile operating system in smart consumer devices. Qualcomm officials said their new SoC will enable users to run more than one application at a time, such as playing a game online while participating in a video conference or streaming a movie.
“In addition to offering our expertise in the smartphone space, we also are introducing capabilities specific to the smart TV space, which enable our customers to redefine the smart TV category by combining the best of both TV and smartphone experiences,” Murthy Renduchintala, executive vice president of Qualcomm Technologies, said in a statement. “Combining the efficient integration of our Snapdragon processing and connectivity components with Qualcomm Technologies’ demonstrated expertise in Android will enable the ultimate home entertainment experience with compelling new ways to watch, play and interact.”
The Snapdragon 802 includes a quad-core Krait 1.8GHz CPU and an Adreno 330 graphics chip. The company will begin sampling the SoC early this year and officials said they expect the technology to begin showing up in systems later in 2014.
At the same time, Qualcomm also introduced the Snapdragon 602A, an applications processor also built on the quad-core Krait CPU and Adreno 320 GPU that is aimed at car infotainment systems.
On Jan. 5, Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang unveiled the 192-core Tegra K1 processor, which is based on the Kepler graphics architecture that is the basis for the company’s GPUs and the company’s GeForce graphics cards. To be sure, the Tegra K1 is a powerful mobile chip that the company expects to find its way into smartphones and tablets, and will help the mobile devices compete with consoles in the booming gaming market. The chip will enable users to play any games on their mobile devices with the same capabilities found on the consoles, according to the company. During an event at the show, Huang demonstrated the Unreal Engine 4 game by Epic Games running on the Tegra K1.
Qualcomm, Nvidia Unveil New Powerful Chips at CES
“It’s a breakthrough that promises to bring the kinds of applications originally built for designers, games and supercomputers to a broad range of devices, erasing the lines between desktop and mobile devices,” Brian Caufield, editor of Nvidia’s corporate blog, wrote in a post on the company’s blog site.
Nvidia officials say the new chip offers three times the performance of Apple’s A7, and will come in two versions—a 32-bit quad-core chip based on the ARM Cortex-A15 CPU architecture and a 64-bit dual-core chip that uses a custom Nvidia-designed CPU code-named Denver. The 32-bit version will start appearing in devices in the first half of 2014, while the 64-bit version will come in the second half.
However, even as the company touts the chip’s capabilities in mobile devices, they also are looking to extend its reach into the automotive arena, particularly in self-driving cars. The Tegra K1 will be able to run such applications as camera-based advanced-driver-assistance systems (ADAS)—including such operations as detecting pedestrians, monitoring blind spots and recognizing street signs—and dashboard-mounted cameras that can monitor driver alertness.
“To process the steady deluge of sensor and camera data required by a self-driving car, Nvidia is bringing highly energy-efficient supercomputer technology inside the vehicle,” Taner Ozcelik, vice president and general manager of Nvidia’s automotive business, said in a statement. “Tegra K1 solves this by providing 10 times the computing power of previous mobile processors without consuming additional energy.”
The chip, in its automotive-grade form, can withstand a range of temperatures and harsh conditions, the company said. Nvidia sees opportunities in the automotive market. Already there are more than 4.5 million cars—including from such manufacturers as Audi, BMW, Tesla and Volkswagen—that include Nvidia processors, officials said.
The Tegra K1 chip will be fully programmable and able to be updated over the air. It will be available to OEMs and top-tier suppliers as a visual computing module, which is a full computer system for cars that can run a range of operating systems, including Windows, Linux, Android and QNX.