Last year, Qualcomm announced that one billion Android devices had shipped powered by Qualcomm processors. It's an impressive statistic but one set to be eclipsed by the business' objective to put their processors into some of the five billion Internet of Things, or IoT, devices expected to be shipped in the coming three years.
To provide some perspective, the Internet of Things (and to confuse matters, it's sometimes called the Internet of Everything or IoE) is a conglomerate of different technologies designed to allow interconnectivity. In other words, it's the acronym used to describe the technology of getting a whole bunch of different devices talking the same language. By different devices, I don't mean Alcatel through to ZTE Android devices. No, I mean anything from cars to trucks to houses to smartwatches to fridges, and everything in-between. This new reimagined, interconnected world has the potential to be the next big thing and a huge number of technology companies are interested in being a part of it. However, history tells us that it is better to be providing the picks and shovels than it is to be digging for gold.
Qualcomm is already proving some of the picks and shovels to a number of early generation IoT devices: many of the smartwatches available to buy today contain a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and associated networking technologies. In the fiscal year that ended in September, Qualcomm generated around $1 billion from non-smartphone businesses and its chips were in 120 million smart home devices, excluding the 40 million cars and wearable devices that also contain their hardware. Qualcomm believe that they have an advantage over the competition because they have already demonstrated success in this area. Derek Aberle, Qualcomm's president, said this on the matter: "Qualcomm is well-positioned to provide the most advanced connectivity, computing and interoperability for devices and machines in smart homes, automobiles, wearables and smart cities. Our technologies are already driving this new era of intelligent connectivity and computing, and we will continue to invest in these emerging segments."
One of the ways Qualcomm is to spearhead their work in this area is by continuously developing new generation networking chips, such as Bluetooth, WiFi and cellular (3G, LTE). This week, it showcased new circuit boards containing processors, RAM, wireless communications and embedded software designed to make low power WiFi devices, such as smart lightbulbs, smarter or as a hub controller, designed to simplify the task of interconnecting WiFi devices. Qualcomm is also working on improving the security of its portfolio of processors to make it harder for hackers to access data remotely. This is an important consideration as many IoT technologies rely on shunting data to and from cloud-based systems. Qualcomm is also considering and experimenting with mesh network technologies designed to reduce latency between the device and the respective cloud service(s).
Another way that Qualcomm is working towards the Internet of Things is through a number of strategic partnerships with various businesses. This last week, it announced partnerships with Ayla Networks, Exosite, Kii, Proximetry, Temboo, and Xively by LogMeIn. Qualcomm is integrating these partners' software into its own connectivity systems. We have also seen Qualcomm investing into the AllPlay technology, their smart media platform, which allows AllPlay certified speakers to work seamlessly with music streaming services. The platform now supports Bluetooth to WiFi re-streaming," which is a means of shunting the streaming music from one compatible Bluetooth AllPlay speaker to other AllPlay speakers connected via WiFi.
Other projects include in-car, cities (typically building, energy and infrastructure management) and health care going far beyond relatively simple activity trackers. Qualcomm already has a number of platforms such as 2net and HealthyCircle, used by over 500 hospitals and their own partners. There is huge potential within the health care market for IoT technologies to simplify many aspects of providing timely and efficient health care.