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Friday, 24 March 2017 15:40

Qualcomm goes vroom, vroom, vroom


Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820am (automotive processor) is at the heart of some top-secret telemetry for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport F1 Grand Prix cars utilising 802.11AD multi-gigabit Wi-Fi for race car data communications.

The Snapdragon 820am is not top secret and is Qualcomm’s venture into a drive data platform that will be used to provide high-level telemetry for autonomous cars and high-definition mapping.

For now, it is exclusively Mercedes F1 team’s secret weapon to rapidly move up to seven gigabytes of data per second of tyre data telemetry gathered from thermal cameras over Wi-Fi AD (60GHz band) from the race car to the monitoring software – every second counts in races that can be won or lost by a second.

The writer was part of a media contingent as a guest of Qualcomm and the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport team at the practice day for the Formula 1, Rolex Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne and got to listen and speak to some of the drivers and engineers as well as spend time with Alex Fernandez, director of business development, Qualcomm Technologies in Australia and New Zealand.

A Mercedes-AMG-Petronas spokesman said that the Qualcomm partnership had been in place for two years and it was initially focused on getting masses of telemetry from the car to the software. He reminded media that this technology moved “from the speedway to the roadway” very quickly and Qualcomm would be able to develop it faster than the car industry could, given the longer lead times for new car development.

Toto Wolff, executive director and head, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, said, “It has already been a rewarding journey to work with Qualcomm Technologies to develop technology that helps the team improve performance on the track and could ultimately have a big impact on people’s lives. Following a successful field trial in Austin last year, we have 802.11AD Wi-Fi technology running on-car. Qualcomm Technologies’ leadership in vehicle connectivity is advancing wireless technology in our race garages and accelerating progress in the wider automotive industry.”

F1 Mercedes

Not being a motorsport aficionado, no matter how shiny, fast or loud the cars are it was important to gain an understanding of Qualcomm, outside the famous Snapdragon chips, sorry platform, that is under the hood of many smartphones.

There is more to Qualcomm

Most people think Qualcomm is a smartphone chip manufacturer – in fact, they would be wrong. It has engineers, scientists and business strategists from many different countries and diverse cultures and all have unique perspectives. Qualcomm focuses on a single goal – inventing mobile technology breakthroughs.

Steve Mollenkopf, chief executive, summed up Qualcomm’s philosophy well. “We’re fascinated by technology and always working to push it forward. Our job is to be impatient. That’s our role in the mobile industry and our future. We’ve been called dreamers, inventors, rebels, risk-takers, pioneers, and geeks. We embrace those labels because, in many ways, they’re true. We dream big. We invent bigger. And most importantly, we often do what many thought was impossible.”

Its stock-in-trade is the huge amount of research and development, patents, licences, and helping to implement mobility and communications standards. It then contracts with chip makers and foundries like Samsung to produce the hardware.

This all begins to make sense, especially considering the “platform” approach. Its products are revolutionising industries, including automotive, computing, IoT, healthcare and data centre, and are allowing millions of devices to connect with each other in ways never before imagined.

For example, Qualcomm has invested in power/energy research resulting in its Quick Charge battery technology (now up to version 4). But lesser known is that its WiPower wireless charging for smartphones has extended to Halo wireless electric charging for smart cars that can currently provide electric vehicles with up to 7kW power over a typical air-gap from the road surface to the charging coil – a road with embedded coils could spell the end of petrol stations.

Qualcomm is also working with the Formula E (Electric Vehicles) where Halo provided 20kW to Lola-Drayson’s B12/69 EV race car into the world of high-performance motorsports at speeds of over 200 mph.

Then there is its open source, non-exclusive, interoperable, 2net health strategy to allow you and your care team (i.e., doctors, nurses, caregivers, family) to easily share real-time biometric data. This cloud-based system works with various medical devices and applications to acquire, transmit, and store your numbers.

Music streaming has become a priority and Qualcomm’s AllPlay open standard Wi-Fi streaming system is the leader in the whole of home music streaming using more reliable, higher bandwidth Wi-Fi instead of Bluetooth. I discovered this recently when reviewing a Laser All Play Wireless Wi-Fi adaptor – to convert a pair of amplified stereo speakers to Wi-Fi, but more importantly to convert an AV Amp via the Optical Output to a streaming device.

These innovations also include 5G modems, Snapdragon Wear for wearables (Android Wear devices), VR and AR, Bluetooth aptX, CSR Mesh, TrueWireless and so much more.

This company bears closer watching as its technologies are used in almost every mobile and IoT device – “Trillions of time a day. It could be the smartphone in your pocket, the tablet on your coffee table, that wireless modem in your briefcase… it could even be that navigation system in your car or that action camera strapped to your chest," as the company claims.

As Fernandez said, “Most of the time I work with partners to help them harness our solutions – if we don’t have one we can invent one. We often do what many thought was impossible!”

Qualcomm’s Facebook page gives some more insights. 



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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!


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