Qualcomm eyes the IoT at CES, touts new chipset, Wi-Fi development

LAS VEGAS -- A wide variety of IoT gadgets including connected cars, health monitors, urban sensors and appliances are attracting attention at this year's CES. And Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) wants to be the tie that binds them together.

The company introduced the second generation of the Snapdragon 820A, a chip with its roots in smartphones but optimized for use in autos and which supports LTE, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It touted the progress its subsidiary Atheros and its partners are making with 802.11ad, a recent version of Wi-Fi that can boost both transmission speeds and capacity. And it announced the launch of Qualcomm Wi-Fi SON (Self-Organizing Network), a platform designed to make it easy for consumers and business users to provision and manage devices with different technologies from various manufacturers simply and efficiently.

The idea behind each of these, Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf said, is to improve the integration of devices from the vast number of industries that are increasingly becoming connected.

"Everything is connected. That's the theme of these shows," said Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf during a press conference Tuesday, adding that the emergence of the IoT could help Qualcomm double its current business. "Wi-Fi SON -- it is unique because it is a case of us taking many years of experience on the cellular side and applying it to Wi-Fi."

Like other longtime players in the cellular industry, Qualcomm is looking to other vertical markets as smartphone growth around the world slows and connectivity becomes nearly ubiquitous in many regions. But while the IoT is still in its infancy, the market already teems with heavy-hitters hoping to deliver the platform of choice for manufacturers and developers: Apple, BlackBerry, Google, Huawei and Samsung are just a few of the developers and vendors pushing their various platforms for connected gadgets.

That fragmentation is likely to increase over the next several years as new devices and technologies come to market. But opportunities will almost surely exist for any player who can help developers, manufacturers and consumers simplify a complex and splintered market. Qualcomm hopes Wi-Fi SON signals not just to vendors but also to consumers that gadgets carrying the brand will work well together, according to Rahul Patel, senior vice president and general manager of connectivity for Qualcomm.

But Rahul acknowledges that won't be easy in the exploding world of the IoT. Particularly when devices on those networks need to integrate with each other without interfering with devices on other networks.

"As more and more homes get into this multi-dwelling environment, you're looking at easily a hundred-something devices on every level in a building," Rahul said a few weeks ago in explaining Wi-Fi SON. "How do we make sure the entire experience is managed and efficient and to the satisfaction of the consumer? Qualcomm's got the necessary IP and necessary products to put together a whole new software platform" for Wi-Fi SON.

For more:
- See this Qualcomm press release

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