CES Pre-event: Qualcomm and Intel were in the limelight

This year, the show revolves around advances in connected and autonomous cars, IoT (predominantly smart home devices), AI and steps towards 5G. It is interesting to note that wearables and smartphones are not causing too much of a buzz at the tech show. Let’s have a look at some of the happenings from the Pre-Event:

Intel Introduced Shooting Star Mini Drones

Intel’s drone light show during the launch

Intel launched its latest drone ‘Shooting Star Mini’ by performing the first drone light show at the Las Vegas event. It is a newer version of Intel drone which is smaller in size and safer to fly indoors. The drones can locate themselves in space without the requirement for GPS and up to 100 of these drones can be controlled by a single pilot thanks to collision detection technology.

Intel is highlighting an entertainment concept through drone-based light shows – a trend which is growing popularity. Intel also showed off an autonomous passenger drone Volocopter during the event. Self-flying cars are one vision of future transportation, but will face challenges from regulatory authorities, and the economics are questionable.

Kia demonstrating a range of new technologies as part of its ‘ACE’ strategy

South-Korean car manufacturer Kia is demonstrating a range of new technologies as part of its new ‘ACE’ strategy which represents ‘A’utonomous, ‘C’onnected and ‘E’lectric. Kia plans to launch a new fuel-cell EV by 2020. Also, it will adopt connected car technologies across every vehicle segment by 2025 with a target to cover connected car technology across all vehicles by 2030. Kia has significant market share in passenger car segment in South Korea capturing the second position. The country is among the first one to adopt 5G technology by 2019, which is known to be the key enabler for autonomous cars.

SanDisk shows off the world’s smallest 1TB USB-C flash drive at CES

SanDisk further reduces the size of its 1TB device which now fits into a USB Type C port. It is the perfect solution for extended storage in the smart device segment. However, the key aspect will be the price point. As the already existing 1TB storage USB device from Kingston costs around $1400 on popular e-commerce websites. Consumer affordability will be the key to mass market adoption which will take some time

Competition is intensifying in Always Connected PC market

At CES 2018, Intel-powered always connected PCs were showcased equipped with Intel Core processor and Intel XMMTM modem. PC vendors announced their new products coupled with this latest solution as highlighted below

  • Acer introduced the Intel Core i7 processor-powered Swift 7
  • HP announced the new Envy X2, an always-connected PC
  • Dell announced that its all-new Inspiron 5280 2 in 1 with built-in 4G LTE

Interestingly, HP originally launched always connected PC powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 and Windows 10, however, HP is now introducing a new Intel-powered variant. Instead of a Snapdragon 835, HP has added a 7th gen Intel Y-Series processor on this device and Windows 10 Home instead of Windows 10 S. However, Lenovo announced its Miix 630 model, built on the Qualcomm Snapdragon Mobile 835 Mobile PC processor and comes with 4G connectivity.

In the age of IoT Revolution, In-built connectivity for PC was the next step of evolution for PC industry. Going forward, we can see more PC vendors opting for always connected PC solutions. However, there is now still tough competition between Qualcomm and Intel to dominate the always connected PC market.

HERE and Hyperloop One formed a partnership for a passenger app

HERE’s partnership with Hyperloop is another great win for the company, as its location platform expands into multiple areas beyond automotive, drones and devices for a complete point-to-point journey.

HERE is offering its Reality Index to Hyperloop One for building a complete end-to-end multi-modal travel experience. HERE is scaling much faster than Google and other location players, as captured in our research.

Toyota showcased autonomous e-commerce mobility platform e-Palette

Toyota revealed an on-demand autonomous vehicle solution for business applications. The solution is based on autonomous technology having a wide range of application areas including ride sharing, delivery, and retail. The e-Palette vision for open, reconfigurable, autonomous platform is one of the most compelling concepts we have seen. There will be multiple challenges in realizing the vision, but it will spark innovation that leads to real progress in our view.

Google is introducing a new Smart Display platform

Google is expanding its ecosystem to smart display with the introduction of smart speakers in partnership with multiple players including Altec Lansing, Anker Innovations, Bang & Olufsen, Braven, iHome, JBL, Jensen, LG, Lenovo, Klipsch, Knit Audio, Memorex, RIVA Audio, SōLIS, and Sony amongst others. These speakers will be available this summer. It will compete directly with Alexa with an additional display to showcase new smart skills. This is another attempt by the tech giant to increase its footprint amongst the consumers to gather more conversational data and further optimize smart assistance use cases.

Qualcomm announced partnerships with Jaguar Land Rover and Honda for its Snapdragon Automotive Platform

Qualcomm announced partnerships with Jaguar Land Rover and Honda for its Snapdragon Automotive Platform, following 25 design wins in 2017. The advanced knowledge in mobile phone connectivity gives an edge to Qualcomm modems over its competitors and would expand its presence in the automotive segment. The company with its Snapdragon Automotive chipset will power the advanced infotainment system on the 2018 Honda Accord. In the case of Jaguar Land Rover vehicles, a combination of 4G, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi tech for connectivity throughout the vehicle will be delivered by a Snapdragon 820Am automotive platform. It also includes Qualcomm’s global navigational satellite system (GNSS) for greater location awareness. This would further increase the capabilities of driver assistance systems for autonomous driving in the future.

Qualcomm announced tunable RFFE

RF Front end (RFFE) is one of the key components in a smartphone and Qualcomm is uniquely positioned to become a leader in this segment. RFFE directly impacts battery life, bezel size, call quality & reliability along with data speeds. All these aspects would become extremely complex to manage as we move from 4G to 5G. To address this, Qualcomm has announced tunable RFFE which dynamically tunes RFFE performance using modem intelligence and network information. Qualcomm announced RF Front End design wins with Google, HTC, LG, Samsung and Sony Mobile.

Qualcomm unveiled a new wireless earbud chipset with improved battery life

Qualcomm launched QCC5100 chipset for wireless earbuds. This will make earbuds more power efficient thereby improving the battery life. As most smartphones are now ditching the 3.5 mm audio jack, improving the battery life and having better sound quality (for which Qualcomm is using the aptX HD audio codec for wireless) will help users to adopt wireless headphones. It will also enable earbuds to process information faster thereby enabling more smart features.

Qualcomm is also expanding its focus from the smartphone to other segments like Automotive, IoT & Security, PC & Datacenters, Networking, Wearables etc. NXP acquisition will accelerate further accelerate Qualcomm’s interests in these fields.

Oculus partnered with Xiaomi to build its first Oculus Go headset

Standalone Oculus Go VR, announced by Facebook and Oculus last year, will be built by Xiaomi. A date for commercial availability has not yet been announced. Xiaomi is also building a VR headset with near identical features in China, its Mi VR. The device is using a Qualcomm Snapdragon 812 processor.

Oculus’ partnership with Xiaomi would help to develop cost-effective standalone VR devices for the mass market. VR is not growing as many expected due to high price points, lack of content, poor user experience and ease of use. Oculus is now trying to revamp the VR industry with this device at $199. Partnerships with a chipset company like Qualcomm will help to enhance the consumer experience. Though optical resolution will remain an Achilles heel in our view.

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