Qualcomm launches smart city marketplace to lower barriers

Qualcomm has launched a campaign to rally the troops around a new banner – the Qualcomm Smart Cities Accelerator Program. Effectively a channel to drive demand for its products in the growing city market, the program runs the risk of adding to the fragmentation in the Internet of Things.

The goal is to create a ‘solutions-focused web site’ that a smart city customer would be able to use to purchase a particular solution, such as one for waste management or pedestrian footfall analytics. With the group of providers, the idea is that the members will all address the various components that comprise such an application, making it easier for a prospective buyer to pull the trigger on their purchase. The Libelium-backed IoT Marketplace uses a similar approach, and also has many smart city options.

Qualcomm’s initial focus is on transportation, energy, infrastructure, buildings, and commercial/industrial. It seems likely that the accelerator program is going to follow those areas pretty closely, and Qualcomm already cites a number of customers for its smart city offerings – Yuneec, Sony, LG, Samsung, Panasonic, GoPro, Linksys, and Asus.

This is all part of Qualcomm’s push to outperform Intel and others and have its chips at the heart of all manner of devices deployed in a smart city. Intel – also with this sector in its sights – is likely to be more focused on the on-premise or cloud-based data center processing that smart cities will require, though it also has significant efforts in drones and machine vision. Intel will also hope for a strong role in edge computing, which is likely to be important to city services, though it is far more vulnerable to challenge from ARM-based players like Qualcomm at the edge than it is in the big data center.

For Qualcomm, there is a risk that its accelerator could become a bit of an echo chamber, and that it might put it in conflict with the rest of the ARM ecosystem. It is, after all, not the only player that would like to use ARM-based CPUs in smart city hardware, though it does makes sense to surround its own processor offerings with other components, such as microcontroller applications, which it cannot provide.

“The Qualcomm Smart Cities Accelerator Program is a central hub for Smart Cities solution providers,” said Sanjeet Pandit, head of smart cities at the company. “By working with proven expertise and deployed solutions, cities, municipalities, government agencies and enterprises can speed the realization of their smart cities visions. This program aims to foster a rich ecosystem of B2B collaborations that we hope will speed the development and deployment of smart cities solutions around the globe.”

The members list on the web site comprises 45 companies from many regions of the world, including US operator Verizon.