Part I of this two-part article on Paul Jacobs’ talk at the Computer History Museum reviewed the history leading up to the CDMA standard and assessed where we are now in mobile communications. This second piece examines our wireless future and some of the research projects underway at Qualcomm. It also addresses the potential impact of the end of Moore’s Law on Qualcomm and the mobile communications industry.
Tablets: After a slow start, Qualcomm chips are being designed into 40 different tablets. With a longer battery life, the tablet can support higher data rates and more powerful embedded processors. The tablet will likely be on-line all the time, which will permit security updates to be performed when it’s not in use or in sleep mode.
Augmented Reality: Will extend the physical world using cyberspace. It will include language translation.
Mobile eHealth: Progress has been very slow. Qualcomm has been working in this space for eight years. Some examples Paul cited: remote medical exams in India, camera phones for medical diagnosis in Egypt, speech therapy for cleft palate (no location specified). Jacobs said he’d like to move mobile health from a fragmented to mainstream, cohesive market.
Internet of Things (IoT): “World will have interconnected sensors with inter-activity everywhere,” Jacobs said. Health care, education, automotive, connected home, electric power industry/smart grid will all make use of the IoTs, he said. Please see addendum below for related Qualcomm IoE initiative for developers.
Continuous Interaction Model: Audio, glasses, smart watch, other wearable devices with notification mechanisms will all use wireless connectivity and be always on, he said.
How to grow innovation? Internal competitions for employees, time off to build prototypes, internal venture fests all have worked at Qualcomm.
Curiosity driven R&D based on ideas of Qualcomm employees: Qualcomm shipped 172M chip sets in the last quarter – all made by TSMC Ltd in Taiwan. The revenue from chip set sales and IP licensing funds much of the R&D programs at the company. Those include: digital brain, next new radio technologies (e.g. LTE Advanced), augmented reality, and digital sixth sense. The latter involves using a mobile phone to augment physical reality by merging cyberspace and real space). Click here for a Qualcomm video on digital sixth sense.
Note: It’s not clear if digital sixth sense is the same thing as “augmented reality”.
Jacobs believes that many of these new research projects will be successful and create new opportunities, services, software, systems and products.
White House Brain Research Initiative is at the intersection of computing, communications, and neuroscience, according to Jacobs. The big challenge is how to stimulate neurons and brain cells? There’s the possibility to connect sensors to the brain and monitor the subconscious mind. Regarding implanted wireless devices (for brain research or ehealth monitoring), Jacobs said, “the less invasive the better.”
Impact of end of Moore’s Law on wireless communications:
The success of Qualcomm was based on Moore’s Law which made it commercially viable to make wireless consumer and industrial products that use the same digital communications theory which was previously applied to much more expensive military and space systems. Jacobs exclaimed that he is “worried about the limits of semiconductor fabrication ending Moore’s law, which would slow down the phenomenal advances in semiconductor processing.”
However, Paul noted that the digital communications industry had already approached Shannon’s upper limit on the number of bits per communications channel. The wireless industry turned to other techniques to cope and improve performance, like using different network topologies and small cells (for frequency re-use within a given geographical area).
“Qualcomm is not based on Moore’s Law, but Moore’s Law created the opportunity that enabled Qualcomm (to be successful),” said Jacobs. “We know how to get to smaller size nodes, but we see economic indicators slowing and we are worried about it – we can see the end from here. If we can’t make cheaper transistors, we’ll look to other things like 3D.”
Addendum: Internet of Everything (IoE) Platform+
Qualcomm and AT&T have teamed up on an M2M development platform they say is now available to developers. Based on Qualcomm’s QSC6270-Turbo chipset, the “Internet of Everything (IoE)” platform – as named by Qualcomm – is intended to accelerate the development of a wide range of applications and devices for use on “the AT&T mobile internet.”
Qualcomm says the platform is an ideal starting point for creating products and applications in verticals that include tracking, industrial controls and healthcare.
Developers are invited to use the IoE Development Platform tools and resources, which can be found here.
+ Surprisingly, this IoE Platform was not mentioned by Paul during the CHM session