Qualcomm says it will rely on its core strengths in connected car market

Qualcomm is playing to its strengths in the connected car market rather than attempting to compete with established chipmakers that provide engine management and safety systems, according to the U.S.-based company's director of marketing.

In an exclusive interview with FierceWireless:Europe Georg Schweighofer said Qualcomm is focusing on providing internet, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity that will enable car manufacturers to provide new services to drivers. He also explained the concept of the "connected" car is not entirely new.

"The first access to the automotive industry was through…bringing mobile internet--wireless internet--into the car," he said, adding. "Our customers, our car partners…launched the first built-in wireless connectivity more than 10 years ago. It started in the U.S…but also in the European markets there is more than five years that connected cars are already on the market."

Schweighofer said the automotive market is a natural evolution of Qualcomm's existing consumer mobile business, and that the company counts the sector as part of the broader Internet of Things (IoT) market. "It is certainly the most mobile of these [M2M] segments," he noted.

Adding wireless connectivity into vehicles enables car manufacturers to offer new services to their customers, such as turning the car into a mobile hotspot for internet access, offering access to web-based radio services, and enabling car manufacturers to fix problems with the vehicle while it is on the road, Schweighofer explained.

Qualcomm recently completed the development of its first automotive version of the Snapdragon processor family, which Schweighofer explained focuses on the infotainment element of cars. The dedicated processor "means that [the] classical head unit in the car can be powered by Snapdragon processors as well."

Schweighofer conceded that when it comes to other in-car chipsets--covering elements including engine management and braking systems--there are already established chipmakers with which manufacturers will work in future. In terms of wireless connectivity, however, he said Qualcomm is already well known by the car industry, and that car makers look to the company to "help them get the latest technology" from the start when developing new models.

Cracking the car market isn't simply a case of transferring existing wireless chips, though. Schweighofer explained that connected car chipsets must have a lifecycle of at least seven years because cars are typically owned for longer than mobile phones.

While Schweighofer did not give precise details on the level of investment Qualcomm is putting into its automotive chips, he explained that development of chips for that industry is complementary to its existing consumer chips, which enables the company to spread the cost of development.

"If you would be an automotive-only player you could spread the development cost [only] on the automotive volume, so I think we are uniquely positioned," he said.

For more:
- see Qualcomm's automotive Snapdragon announcement

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