The recently held Qualcomm Innovation Forum was all about sharing, showcasing and celebrating innovative concepts developed by Qualcomm and its partners in India and abroad.
The event brought together Qualcomm experts to talk about the current product pipelines and key technologies of the company, and engineering leads to discuss the Qualcomm Design Innovation Programme.
Qualcomm’s pathway to innovation
The 2nd edition of the Qualcomm Innovation Forum was inaugurated by Sachidanand Varadarajan, Vice President of Engineering, Qualcomm Bangalore, who began by stating that this was a celebration of innovation not just for Qualcomm, but also for its partners.
"In the last 30 years, we've been connecting people to the world. In the next 30, we aim to connect people to the world, by connecting machines," said Sachidanand.
On the cusp of the 5G revolution, Qualcomm envisions a lot of new and connected devices that enable improved opportunities not just for Qualcomm but also for entrepreneurs and other companies. Working towards this, the company has invested more than $53 billion in research and development over time, to develop more innovative products and suggestions.
"5G is the foundation of what we're going to do next. We're looking at enhancing mobile broadband, enabling mission-critical services like healthcare and security and interconnecting devices using IoT to provide massive opportunities. We invest in a way that we collaborate with the ecosystem to improve lifestyles and make the world a better and safer place," he added.
Qualcomm’s IoT vision
The keynote address was delivered by Rahul Patel, SVP & GM, IOT & Connectivity, Qualcomm Technologies Inc. Rahul spoke about Qualcomm's IoT vision and how it is making a lasting impact on connectivity, wearables, voice & music and changing the way we interact and connect with the world.
Talking about cognitive homes, Rahul emphasized the number of wireless appliances we have at home that don't interact with each other and only ends up congesting the home. Qualcomm wants to create seamless experiences through cognitive platforms to drive smart homes. There are four pillars upon which this platform gets built - seamless connectivity, intelligence, interaction and security. Wifi mesh networking is the new foundation for smart home connectivity. "It uses the capability of our wifi access point, combines it with intelligence, crosses at the access point about where the load is in the network and organises connectivity so that based on certain applications, you have a better coverage to work with." They have implemented a network that has the ability to self-organise, self-optimise, self-heal and self-protect. "We believe this is the backbone of what a real smart home or a future cognitive home is going to be all about," he said.
"What was a mesh node earlier is now becoming a mesh wifi speaker. We combine voice, music and mobile experiences. We position ourselves in such a way that we bring the best-in-class audio capabilities in all platforms," he added.
In the wearables space, the Qualcomm Snapdragon wear helps consumers stay connected, get fit, keep them safe and helps manage their home. "A watch becomes the key to your home, car, digital payments and just about everything else." They have around 200 wearable devices in the market and is the #1 provider of 4G LTE connected wearables. Qualcomm vision intelligence platform also provides multicamera capabilities for smart home and industry security.
“We are a modem company at heart. We are all about making wifi more predictable and robust as compared to a cellular modem. Our technology thrives only when we lead the marketplace; not only in engagement but in driving the vision of the marketplace," said Rahul.
Inspired to build smart vehicles
The second keynote address was by Swapnil Jain, Co-founder of Ather Energy, who shared his journey. The company has built India’s first truly intelligent electric scooters and has filed 43 patent applications along with 11 international patent applications and 122 design registrations. Their products designed in India are being manufactured at their Whitefield facility in Bengaluru. Ather Energy was started in 2013 after Swapnil and his co-founders, all IIT graduates, realised there was great potential for 2-wheelers in the country, but most of them were about improving sales and not about building new technology. As they were used to getting their hands' dirty building multiple projects, they saw this as an opportunity. They found no takers ready to invest in a hardware startup idea by college graduates, but one of their professors funded them as he was eager to see them build something and get it to the market. They realised that the electric vehicle technology had already evolved, and people were looking to buy something that was affordable and really fun to ride. The missing piece was the technology which was not readily available in the market. "It was evident that no one was building what we were building because the technology was not available. We realised that we had to invest not just in building the vehicle, but also the technology," said Swapnil.
The team set out to build almost all the parts for the vehicle from scratch, including the battery panel, the body, the software and so on. They had to keep in mind that they had to offer something beyond what the market was offering. "Smart, connected and electric vehicles were trending and that's why we built it. It had to attract the audience not just in terms of features, but also the aesthetics and dynamics." They raised more funding and demonstrated the S340 model for the first time at a tech conference called Surge. Since they got great feedback, they decided to add more members to their team and continue to innovate. In 2018, they made it to the market with two scooters and started delivery 1.5 months back.
"Our electric vehicles enable customers to choose how to optimise their rides based on various parameters. They can personalise the vehicle according to their own need, ensuring a smoother ride."
The journey to being 5G ready
5G will completely transform the way the world connects, computes, and communicates. In his keynote address, Dr. Baaziz Achour, Senior Vice President, Engineering Qualcomm Technologies Inc., shared where we stand today on being 5G ready and the journey Qualcomm has taken so far to bring 5G to network operators, industries and consumers.
The world has been witnessing G transitions for the last 30 years. After each one, there are deliberations on how to make it better in the next one. 'What's the next big thing' is always on their mind. He said, based on requirements gathered from talking to industries and customers to try and understand their connectivity requirements, they design end-to-end system prototypes and testbeds within the companies that adhere to global standards. Over time, they interact with vendors to understand their experience which helps them fine tune the products. "We are going to make 5G a reality in 2019. It's a collection of a lot of features and technology which involves better latency, coupled with machine learning and wireless technology," says Dr. Baaziz.
There are multiple phases which include the flexibility of the network which should be forward compatible. It should be able to use more spectrums from around the world and will be deployed in different scenarios, according to the need. For this, the whole ecosystem should come together to make it work, including vendors, partners, customers, etc. "Mobile is becoming the pervasive AI platform and our aim is to bring AI to the masses," he said.
Focusing on connected cameras
“Everything around us is smart, be it the office, car or home," said Alex Shah, Founder and CEO, Altek Corp, a high-quality digital image solution provider for medical and automotive customers.
He spoke about the evolution of cameras and how many mobile companies have partnered with Altek to use their camera technology. "The future of camera is AI-oriented. We worked with Qualcomm for 25 years for our cameras, and now we're working on IoT products and VR360 cameras for them," said Alex. The VR360 cameras allow you to capture every experience in its full angle. Whether it is trekking, snorkelling, riding, the technology allows you to stitch together scenes in the camera itself. In other words, image processing takes place in the camera itself.
He also mentioned how high security cameras cannot distinguish between a dog, cat, robber or an actual crime when it takes place. Altek's technology helps manage false alarms through instant detection and recognition which will save around 99.9 per cent of video recording time. Altek aims to revolutionise the security environment and has introduced the first vision-based AI camera based on Reddragon to support Microsoft Azure.
The Qualcomm Design In India Programme
Kiran S Chikkappa, Principal Engineer, Qualcomm Technology Licensing (QLT) India took to the stage to introduce the Qualcomm Design In India Program. The company looked at the Indian government's initiatives, the key areas they were focusing on, and what were the gaps in the country. They decided to use Qualcomm’s expertise to fulfil the government’s Make in India vision by adjusting these gaps. Though innovation was the key mantra, the government’s focus was more on software startups. "We were among the first hardware incubators in India, we provide extensive support for hardware as well as software startups," said Kiran.
When they spoke to their customers, they realised the hardware design capabilities in India were quite poor. Qualcomm set up state-of-the-art labs for partners as well as startups. They also support Qualcomm innovation fellowship research brands for the purpose of cutting-edge research, and coordinate state-of-the-art training for software and hardware development.
Their flagship programme, the Qualcomm Design in India Challenge supports hardware startups in India. "We encourage them to use our chips and technologies, and we don't take equity from them," he said. Apart from prize money, the startups also get access to expert mentors. "We saw that the number of ecosystem partners for hardware were very less and decided to work with some of the greatest minds to host this training programme," he added.
Solution showcase by partners
On the occasion, Qualcomm Design in India partners showcased their innovations -- Intuvision Labs Private Limited's IntuCAM-Nano, Chigroo Labs Private Limited's Cradlewise, MobiusWorksPvt. Ltd.'s Wagr, Nearex Technologies Pvt. Ltd, GlobalEdge Product Engineering Service, and Steradian Semiconductors.
Qualcomm Innovation Forum 2018 was a spectacular display of groundbreaking ideas that startups were building and how Qualcomm is enabling them in their innovation journey.