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18 April 2019

Qualcomm rounds up the boys, launches smart city accelerator

Fresh off its Apple victory, Qualcomm is launching a new campaign, rallying the troops around a new banner – the Qualcomm Smart Cities Accelerator Program. Effectively a channel to drive demand for Qualcomm’s products in the growing smart city market, the program, like all other similar projects, runs the risk of adding to the fragmentation in the IoT – but if it earns Qualcomm dollars, it’s not going to be too shaken up about it.

In terms of the silicon vendors, Intel is the closest direct rival to Qualcomm here, and given Intel’s track record, we don’t envision it doing better than Qualcomm in this regard. Qualcomm is really pushing to have its chips at the heart of all manner of devices deployed in a smart city, while Intel is likely going to be relegated to on-prem or cloud-based data center processing in this smart city context, despite its efforts in drones and machine-vision.

Intel might be hoping that edge-processing is a fertile market for its CPUs, but there is far less corporate inertia in this greenfield market, which benefits the likes of Qualcomm. In data centers, it is still a pretty hard sell to convince the CTO or operational manager to jump from x86 to ARM, but this legacy inertia is not present in edge-processing. In many applications, the compute requirements of these edge devices, whether they are simple gateways, sensor nodes, or camera systems, are much more towards the Snapdragon end of the scale, rather than the Xeon extremity. Intel might have lower-power x86 options, but the mobile-based designs are likely to win-out in that realm.

For Qualcomm, there is a risk that its accelerator could become a bit of an echo-chamber, and one that 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, nor does it have much interest in addressing the microcontroller (MCU) applications either. The announcement doesn’t include ‘open,’ or ‘free,’ but then again, neither does it talk of ‘license’ or ‘royalty.’

The goal is to create a ‘solutions-focused website’ that a smart city customer would be able to use to purchase a particular solution, such as 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 has many smart city options, by the way.

Qualcomm’s initial focus seems to be 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, although besides inferring that Yuneec is using it for drones, it’s far from clear what the other companies are using Qualcomm for in this market.

“The Qualcomm Smart Cities Accelerator Program is a central hub for Smart Cities solution providers,” said Sanjeet Pandit, senior director, business development and head of Smart Cities, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “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 website has profiles of each company, and reads:

Advantech, Altek, Arrow Electronics, Atoll Solutions, Ayla Networks, Beenoculus Tecnologia, Black & Veatch, Compal, Cradlepoint, DXC Technology, Epilog Imaging Systems, Focus H&S, Fractal Platform, Global Edge Software, GOSUNCNWELINK Technology, Guardhat, IPS Group, Irvees Technology, Jalasoft, Kaynes Technology, Lime, Linkflow, Lite-On, MagData, MiTAC Digital Technology, Mobilogix, Mu Space and Advanced Technology, Neoway, Nortek Secturity & Control, Prasimax, Quantela, Radio Engineering Industries, Shanghair EAWADA, Shanghai Mowa, Shenzhen Chainway, Strategy of Things, Streamax, u-blox, USI, Uros, Verizon, VIA Technologies, Water Pigeon, WNC, and Xingtera.