Qualcomm Moves to 10nm with 820/821

Qualcomm held the first press event of the 2017 event, just before the ‘official’ opening event by the CTA.

Keith Kressin started by saying that Qualcomm started by moving the mobile phone from analogue to digital. Once voice went digital, the shift was connecting people to the internet on the move. Now, the move is to connect things to the internet, rather than people.

Qualcomm KressinQualcomm’s Kressin. Image:Meko

Kressin said that there are now over 200 designs released or in design using the Qualcomm 820 and 821 processors announced last year. However, there is a new 10nm chip, this year, the only one on the show floor, he said. 10nm is the fifth stage in the development of chip technology since 28nm. 35% smaller than 820/821 and that means around 3mm saved. The are five ‘pillars’ that the chips were designed around – battery, immersiveness, image capture for photography, connectivity and security. The features of the chip include:

  1. Battery life – improved efficiency means around 25% lower power on average. New Quickcharge 4.0 technology gives five hours of talk for five minutes of charge time – a big advantage for VR, which can be be very power hungry.
  2. Immersion – specifically for VR/AR that is 25% faster. The chip can support a 10 bit display and has low latency of 15ms and uses an Adreno 540 GPU. 3D audio is improved with 32 bit 384 kHz and the VR support includes six degrees of freedom.
  3. Better cameras have been in constant demand over the years. Optical zoom and stabilisation has been improved and there is better autofocus, with a feature called ‘Clear Sight’ for low light situations. There is support for up to 32 megapixel cameras with video support up to 2160P @ 30fps.
  4. Connectivity has been improved and the chipset has integrated Wi-Fi (802.11ac) or PCIe-based 802.1ad Wigig (reduces the chipcount for handset makers) and there is an LTE modem (gigabit/fibre based)
  5. Security features include fingerprint and biometric recognition (iris and facial) and the chipset can take a ‘voice print’, The chip supports multi-factor authentication – security is very important in India and China.
  6. Machine learning is becoming more important and the chips have a neural processing algorithm which can run on the CPU or GPU or on a DSP.

The 835 is in production now. It is not just in smartphones, it will also be used in stand-alone AR/VR and Mixed Reality (MR) as well as PCs using Windows 10 (Microsoft to Run Windows 10 on Qualcomm). Of course, the chip runs Android and can be used in tablets and IP cameras.

Raj Talluri is SVP of QCT Product management and he talked about Qualcomm’s work on the IoT.

Mobile will drive the IoT because of the speed of development and also scale of mobile technology. Also hardware-based security has been in mobile for 20 years, so making secure products should be simpler. More than 1 billion IoT devices have now shipped with Qualcomm chips, the company claims. Talluri highlighted a small number of the technologies under development and the first was the ODG R-8 AR/VR smartglasses which have an 835 processor integrated. ODG has the I and R lines for consumer and enterprise devices, respectively.

Mattel Adopts Alexa & Adds Aristotle

The Mattel Aristotle is a home for ‘kids’ – using machine learning. e.g. by responding to crying with different music.It is an Amazon Alexa-based system optimised for child care and including a camera. It also has its own ‘Aristotle’ assistant, similar to Alexa.

Mattel aristotleMattel’s Aristotle adds a child specific system to Amazon’s Alexa

Turning to wearables, Qualcomm believes that the segment is ‘gaining momentum’ and claims that 80% of Android Wear devices shipping use Snapdragon processors. Swarovski will show a watch in March and this reflects a trend for fashion brands to get into smartwatches. Talluri showed a short video clip, which managed to avoid actually showing the product!

Qualcomm has a partnership with Verizon to work on communications for the IoT.

Automotive a Big Opportunity and Target

Patrick Little was the next speaker and he is an SVP and GM of the automotive group at Qualcomm. In this segment, the firm is looking to develop autonomy, connectivity and electrification of vehicles.

Little said that there are big potential gains. Annually there are 1.2 million deaths caused by automotive accidents but there are also a lot of potential savings of currently wasted energy and fuel, as well as repairs and injuries.

Connectivity between vehicles and the cloud is a critical point – it needs high speed and high reliability. Qualcomm is developing new gigabit connectivity in the car – close to the speed of fibre connectivity in the home. He almost imagines users with poor broadband wanting to go to their cars for connections. Cars will support Wi-Fi, LTE and GNSS with high precision.

Qualcomm has support for different automotive operating systems including Android, QNX and Automotive Grade Linux. The aim is provide a seamless transition from the mobile device to the car.

The next generation of Volkswagen cars will use Qualcomm chips – in model year 2018 these will be modems and in 2019 compute chips get into model range.

Autonomy in cars needs many different skills and technologies and everyone is trying to partner in every different way, Little said. You have to be able to sense many different things in many different conditions. You have to think hard, and the processing may need different algorigthms and that could mean running on GPUs, CPUs or DSPs. Qualcomm thinks its hetergenous compute architecture will be a big advantage when this happens.

Qualcomm has developed Cellular V2X technology which means connections from the “vehicle to everything” so that vehicles talk to other cars to the environment for traffic etc. In 2017, there will be field trials with Audi and others to test this technology.

Steve Mollenkopf then spoke about what he called the ‘intelligent revolution’. He spoke especially about 5G and what it can do for you as a consumer.

Keynote Highlights 5G Opportunities

As well as its press event, Steve Mellenkopf gave one of the keynotes. Gary Shapiro of the CTA introduced him.

After the obligatory video – which suggested that Qualcomm will enable 5G which will change ‘everything’. 5G is not just a new generation of mobile, said Mellenkopf, it will be a new paradigm in networking. Today, billions of devices are combining with robotics and deep learning to create a new world. Entire industries will change.

Working from anywhere, streaming high quality video and VR & AR will change the human experience, Qualcomm believes. Devices will provide data but will also help to understand what we want. Connections have to be much more reliable, faster and more secure and 5G will deliver that, Mollenkopf said. Latency of connections will be around 1ms, so responses will be ‘instant’. Qualcomm has commissioned a 5G economic study which confirms that mobile will become even more important and Qualcomm believes that the impact of 5G will be as big as the arrival of electricity or the development of the car.

In 2035, when the benefits of 5G will be fully realised, the value of related goods and services delivered by 5G will be $12 trillion, as much as US consumers spent in 2016 and more than the combined spending of China, Japan, Germany, France and the UK last year. That should support 22 million jobs. It will impact big and small companies in all geographies.

Building the infrastructure is a big task – it has to sit on top of today’s infrastructure and has to last a decade or more. That’s tough – nobody knows what the world will look like in ten years. Every 3G device contains Qualcomm inventions and the company wants to remain that central to the market. For Qualcomm, 5G has been a project ‘for years; and there are new trials planned this year with AT & T, SK Telecom and Ericsson.

Qualcomm divides the opportunity into three areas:

  1. An immersive world of constant connectivity in a VR/AR world
  2. Connecting ‘everything’ – a vast number of sensors and ‘things’
  3. Transforming connectivity reliability and security for ‘when failure is not an option’

Starting with immersion, 5G will revolutionise mobile computing, blurring the lines between the virtual and the real. For example, in retail, lots of data will help buyers and theme parks will be more fun. Streamed video will get a lot better and storage and capacity will seem ‘infinite’. Video will allow global high quality communication. When you can’t be there in person, your headset can take you there. Analysts forecast that 8.3 billion smartphones will ship between 2016 and 2020 – that’s 50 smartphones per second. Users have higher and higher demands and the new chips from Qualcomm are intended to support that. He then went through the features of the 835, which we report on above.

Qualcomm’s 835 has tiny transistors and uses 10nm processes.

The transistors on the 835 are 7500 times smaller than a human hair, Mellenkopf said.

Mobile chips, not PC chips, are now in the lead in delivering new devices with more power and using less battery power. Anita Hix of Qualcomm then came on to demonstrate dual streaming videos being stitched together and then output via HDMI in real time to allow the display of 360º video. Unfortunately, the demo didn’t work on the big screen! A demo of immersive audio was more impressive.

Mellenkopf then described the X50 5G modem supporting ‘mm band’ radio and went onto the advantages of this faster processing and networking in VR. He showed a demo of Power Rangers for VR and then introduced Dave Cole of NextVR, a developer of ‘lens to lens’ VR technology, with capture, compression and playback. 5G will really help with VR because of the need for low latency and high quality. 5G will allow HDR, high resolution and high frame rate and Cole showed a demonstration. Next VR is working with Google Daydream VR and Samsung Gear VR and with sports including the NBA and NFL as well as LiveNation.

Qualcomm 5G Reduced motion blurQualcomm Showed that 5G will have reduced motion blur

5G will provide each user with up to 100 Mbps, which will allow very high quality. Currently, there are only 3 degrees of freedom enabled by NextVR, but the plan is to move to five or six degrees of freedom.

Turning to connecting everything, Mollenkopf talked about the huge scale of the IoT infrastructure that is being built. Consumers often have less information on the state of their bodies than on the state of their cars. Devices have to be small and fit into the existing, complex, ecosystem. Health care doesn’t seem to have really exploited today’s capabilities. Qualcomm is working on a medical platform (Qualcomm Life) that has support from a number of partners including Philips and Novartis. Jeroen Tas of Philips came on to talk about ‘saving lives’. Qualcomm believes that 40% of connected IoT devices will be medical.

There is a growing population and there is a challenge from chronic disease. The point of care is not just a hospital or GP’s office – it’s wherever you are. Philips is working with Qualcomm to build a medical infrastucture. Tas talked about a fall detector that sends vital signs to help to diagnose a problem, such as a stroke. A patch to track heart function can stream data back to the medical system, when the patient returns home.

Turning to diabetes, 400 million people globally are affected. It’s hard for those suffering to understand the correct dose of insulin, but constant monitoring with cloud-based deep learning allows more precise and predictable treatment.

5G needs to work seamlessly with Wi-Fi and Qualcomm is working with OneWeb to build a global satellite network that can be accessed by standard mobile devices. The constellation will start to deploy in 2018 with commercial services starting in 2019 or 2020.

Airbus OneWeb 900 satellites videoOneWeb Will Use Satellites to Offer Global Internet

Mollenkopf then went onto the very reliable communication, for example, using drones. Farmers are already using drones to monitor and inspect their land. Drones have to be integrated into commercial airspace, which will be a challenge. 5G will be a critical part of this as secure communication with drones is possible beyond the operator’s line of sight. Qualcomm is working with AT&T to optimise cellular comms for drones and is testing this in San Diego.

Qualcomm has a 12g weight flight development platform and during the keynote there was a demo of three drones flying through a space like an industrialised warehouse and detecting and avoiding objects in real time. The company said that it was the first time that flying and machine learning has been shown at the same time, and running locally on the drones – not using power in the cloud. GPS doesn’t work well indoors, so the drones were using machine vision based on cameras and inertial sensors. There are tough requirements for power, weight and function.

Qualcomm Supported by VW for Autonomous Driving

Tomorrow’s cars will be ‘brain over brawn’. Dr. Volkmar Tanneberger of Volkswagen came on to talk about online services in cars. VW has worked with Qualcomm for some time and 2.1 million cars already use Qualcomm connectivity. The firm will continue to develop this collaboration and there are challenges in updatability/upgradability of cars. VW will use the Qualcomm X12 LTE modem which allows LTE connections up to 600 Mbps which will help with updating.

The 820A processor will come to VW’s infotainment systems in 2019 models. VW has launched ‘VW User ID’ which will mean that configurations and music will follow the user, whichever car they are in, with single sign on. More personal services means a lot of data and that needs 5G for bandwidth and reliability. Future E-Mobility cars will support 5G and VW will support the the V2X technology development. A trial of V2X will start this year as the communication between cars and the environment allows a lot more data than the car can collect itself. For example, a single car cannot look around a corner, but could get information about a hazard from cars that are out of sight around that corner.

Autonomous cars need HD mapping which will be generated by high numbers of cars feeding back data to the cloud. That will need a huge amount of data capacity. 5G can scale to that level of bandwidth. (BR)

Booth Tour

On its booth, Qualcomm was showing that the 835 chip could support HDR rendering on mobile devices, with both HDR10 and HLG being available. The company only had limited demonstrations of the 802.11ad technology, which seemed to be more prominent last year. The company was also showing ‘inside out’ tracking using onboard sensors, rather than needing external detectors. The demonstrations used the firm’s 835-based reference design. More experienced VR users than your reporter suggest that while the rotational tracking was very good, the latency was not quite as good or fast in positional tracking as the SteamVR ‘Lighthouse’ or the Oculus Constellation and overall that the result was very impressive. (BR)