From Mobile To IoT: Qualcomm Sharpens Its IoT Strategy With New Embedded Snapdragon Processors

Qualcomm is hitting the lucrative Internet of Things market hard with the release of two new embedded Snapdragon processors – available for the first time through a distributor.

The San Diego-based company has leveraged its mobile expertise to create its new embedded chips – the Snapdragon 410E and Snapdragon 600E series – that are designed to reach a broader market and target low-power, scalable IoT applications.

’Qualcomm has grown with mobile and a handful of customers, and we’re now going after this broader market for the first time,’ Tia Cassett, senior director of product management at Qualcomm, told CRN. ’We’ve cherry picked parts from our mobile roadmap, like Wi-Fi, GPS, and integrated video capabilities, so there are some places where Snapdragon will do really well – like digital signage and robotics.’

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The Snapdragon 410E, currently available for an undisclosed price, clocks at 1.2 GHz and is targeted for low-end applications such as smart homes, medical equipment and digital signage.

The Snapdragon 600E, which clocks at 1.5GHz, will be available in 2017 for applications with higher processing power like portable sonograms. This processor is also expandable for a variety of use cases with SATA, DDR memory and PCIe interfaces, according to Qualcomm.

As part of its IoT strategy, Qualcomm is also roping in the distribution channel to offer its chips to a broader market, said Cassett. For the first time, the company is using a distributor – Arrow – to offer initial sales and support for the Snapdragon chips.

’The introduction of Snapdragon 600E and 410E offers a broad range of product options,’ said David West, senior vice president of Arrow Electronics, in a statement. ’Arrow looks forward to offering Qualcomm Technologies’ Snapdragon processors and complementing them with the full range of parts and engineering services we can offer to help customers through commercialization.’

Both the 600E and 410E feature multi-core performance and 3D graphics, as they support Qualcomm’s Adreno GPU models and Hexagon DSP. They also support Bluetooth and GPS for connected applications.

Qualcomm’s release tightens an already solid Internet of Things track record; the company is the top IoT-related patent holder in 2016, with 724 patents, according to technology consultancy LexInnova.

The company has also been working to expand its partner base around IoT. Earlier this month, Qualcomm announced it will pre-integrate Verizon’s ThingSpace IoT platform as-a-service within its low-power Category M LTE modem.

’Eventually we will be evolving to include more distributors … this is a new market for Qualcomm, we’re used to dealing with only a handful of customers with millions of unit [in mobile],’ said Cassett. ’The whole ecosystem of IoT is made up of third parties … a lot of these use cases are so different than what we work with in mobile, and partners have built up the knowledge base.’

"These embedded processors offer manufacturers, solution providers, and system integrators options for speeding commercialization through a variety of off-the-shelf and custom modules, as well as the freedom for a chip-on-board design for a cost-optimized approach unique to their requirements," she added.

However, Qualcomm still faces a substantial challenge: getting ahead in a hyper-competitive market that other chip companies, including Intel and ARM, have a laser focus on.

’We’ll continue adding new parts to the roadmap as we look at the hardware and how it fits into the competitive landscape,’ Cassett said. ’As we look at holes in existing embedded computing offerings, we’re hitting on some sweet spots.’