qualcomm-iot-platform_summit2016_04In the past week, Qualcomm has been pitching developers and hardware partners in Hong Kong and when it comes to IoT (Internet of Things), Qualcomm has gone from discrete chips to platform, in a big way. In the past, the company has created various development kits, but now more than ever, it has realized that IoT can have a tremendous barrier to entry that can many potential partners simply cannot cross. That is why 25 Qualcomm “ready for production” platforms are now available.

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That’s because IoT is a cross-disciplinary field in which a vast array of problems has to be solved simultaneously: small designs, low-power, multiple connectivity (WiFi, BT, Cellular), low-cost. The net result is that only big electronics companies tend to be successful in fields such as smart cameras or smart watches. Markets such as drones are increasingly difficult for new comers to access.

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Because Qualcomm needs to have all this expertise internally, it has decided to essentially package complete solutions that are almost ready to use to let hardware partners focus on industrial design, user experience and as few key use cases innovation.

With complete platforms for IP Cameras, Drones, Smart Watches, Qualcomm is laying the ground work for what could be a very significant expansion into fast-growing chunks of the consumer IoT market. That’s also of an already successful foray into the B2B IoT market, which is the most lucrative IoT segment at the moment. The recent smart upgrade of the San Diego Petco Park is a good example in that area.

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Raj Talluri, SVP of product management at Qualcomm

The move makes sense because, from a (small/mid-size) IoT OEM perspective there is little incentive to pick and choose from an array of application processors (SoC), modem and sensors, then try to put everything together with one’s engineering resources. Even if there are better individual components, the potential gain is often not worth the trouble and expense of redoing some of that platform work.

This lack of incentive was already somewhat true for many smartphones OEMs, but it is even more the case for IoT devices makers. With these platforms, Qualcomm partners could save years (if not decades) of person-year engineering efforts. In return, Qualcomm would consolidate its ecosystem at the expense of the competition. This is a classic platform play.

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