Verizon Goes IoT

November 9, 2015 by  
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Verizon has rolled out ThingSpace, a development platform for companies of all sizes to create Internet of Things applications more efficiently and then later manage those apps.

The carrier also announced it is creating a new dedicated network core for IoT connections that can scale far beyond the ability of its existing networks with the intent to reach billions of sensors and devices.

“Continued innovation in smart cities, connected cars and wearables demonstrates that IoT is the future for how we will live and work,” said Mike Lanman, senior vice president of enterprise products at Verizon during an event held at Verizon’s San Francisco Innovation Center. He said Verizon is taking a “holistic approach” to help expand the IoT market from millions of connections to billions. The event was webcast.

Other major wireless carriers, including AT&T, are developing programs to offer a range of services to industries and cities for connecting IoT sensors to wireless networks and then to cloud services for data analysis.

At Verizon, Lanman said the company is working to lower the cost of connecting billions of existing devices that companies have used for years to Verizon’s network. Holding up a new computer chip made by Sequans Communications, an LTE chip maker, he said the chip will provide a “significant reduction in cost…that changes the game.” It will provide 4G LTE connectivity in modules connected to IoT devices to “make the wide-area network more accessible to developers.”

Also, next year Verizon will launch a new IoT core network within its LTE network to provide a “much lower cost” than with Verizon’s existing wired and wireless networks.

“The cost for an IoT module and the cost to connect will both drop dramatically,” Lanman added. “Whether you are connecting your dog or water meters and any other low-payload devices, we’ll handle it through a new IoT core.”


Qualcomm Goes LTE For Microsoft

October 22, 2015 by  
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Qualcomm has continued its friendship with Microsoft by extending its latest LTE-Advanced modem, the X12, to Windows 10 notebooks and tablets.

The chipmaker was the only major chip provider to optimize its architecture for Windows Phone, and Microsoft’s Lumia devices, which run on Snapdragon 808 and 810 chips.

The Windows 10 devices which come to market later this year will have the option to integrate cellular connectivity with the X12, X7 or X5 LTE modems, which support the Microsoft operating system’s native Mobile Broadband Interface Model (MBIM).

Qualcomm said this would give business users, in particular, a similar experience on their large-screened devices as on their smartphones, giving the particular examples of location-based services and security driving LTE usage on PCs and tablets.

Integrated cellular connectivity has not been so important for notebook users, outside of a few scenarios such as WiFi-less trains, most wireless access from notebooks, and even tablets, is over a WLAN.

Qualcomm makes WiFi chips for portable devices but it does not have such a big market share. Working with Microsoft means it could have a higher presence and a far better chance of delivering mass sales. The Surface Pro and its new Surface Book, is getting good reviews and might even be popular.


Microsoft, Google Cease Fire In Global Patent Deal

October 14, 2015 by  
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Microsoft has been pursuing a more collaborative approach under CEO Satya Nadella, engaging longtime rivals like Salesforce, VMware and Apple. There hasn’t been much love between Microsoft and Google, but an announcement on Wednesday points towards an easing of those tensions.

Google and Microsoft have reached a broad agreement on patent matters, with a legal settlement ending some 20 lawsuits between the companies in the U.S. and Germany. Financial terms weren’t disclosed, but the deal brings a laundry list of lawsuits to a close.

“Microsoft and Google are pleased to announce an agreement on patent issues,” they said in a joint statement. “As part of the agreement, the companies will dismiss all pending patent infringement litigation between them, including cases related to Motorola Mobility.”

They also agreed to collaborate on patent matters and work together “to benefit our customers.”

The suits that have been settled include those related to mobile phones, video encoding and Wi-Fi technologies. That doesn’t mean Microsoft has given up its campaign to collect royalties from Android device makers for the mobile operating system’s alleged infringement of Microsoft patents.

It’s not clear from the statement what patent matters the companies will be working on together in the future, but changes have already begun. The two companies agreed earlier this month to work together (alongside other firms like Netflix and Mozilla) on a royalty-free video codec.

It remains to be seen if the settlement will lead to more work between Microsoft and Google in other areas. A major sticking point for consumers has been the lack of a Google-made YouTube app for smartphones and tablets running Windows.


Raspberry Pi To Get Mass Storage

September 25, 2015 by  
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Bittorrent and WD have teamed up to create a 1TB drive for the Raspberry Pi. The Pi Drive has been designed especially for the Raspberry Pi Model B+ and the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, and offers a viable way to turn a Pi into a media centre, NAS and PVR all in one.

BitTorrent Sync makes it possible to sync content from all your devices straight to the drive, bypassing the cloud and making it an excellent backup device.

It differs from a standard hard drive, not least because it’s low-powered enough to be run off the USB port that charges your Pi, using a splitter cable supplied – no mean feat for a mechanical drive.

It’s not perfect. It’s a standard 2.5in drive but with a USB connection rather than a SATA which means it’s bigger than the Pi and you’ll need to create a bespoke case or let it all hang out in true maker fashion.

Essentially, it’s the same type of drive that you would see if you smashed open one of WD’s external drives, but it would take a brave soul to do so and this way you get the right cable and software to make it all work together.

The tie-up between BitTorrent and WD comes as the former announces version 2.2 of the Sync service which we have been following since inception.

The new version offers a clearer delineation between home and pro users. Home users can buy a lifetime licence for $39.99 which covers all 2.x releases. This comes in addition to the perpetual free version which will no longer be limited to 10 folders.

Instead the monetized version will come from business customers who remain on a monthly fee, and pro user subscriptions for advanced features such as collaboration and file sharing introduced in version 2.1.

The Pi Drive retails at $80 with a 35 percent discount offer through BitTorrent with the code WDPIDRIVE1TB. UK sellers are yet to be confirmed, but will form part of the newly launched BitTorrent Sync reseller programme that launches with this edition.


Drones To Have Intel Inside

September 10, 2015 by  
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Intel is taking its competitive game up a notch by investing in its own drones.

Intel has written a check for more than US$60 million to Yuneec International, a Chinese aviation company and drone maker.

This is not the first time that the Chipmaker has invested in drones. It has written smaller amounts for the drone makers Airware and PrecisionHawk. The Yuneec deal is its largest investment in a drone company yet.

Apparently Intel thinks that drones are potential computing platforms for its processors.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said he believed in a smart and connected world. And one of the best ways to bring that smart and connected world to everyone and everywhere has been drones.

Amazon and Google are developing drones as they seek new ways to deliver items to consumers, Intel just wants to make sure that its chips are delivering the payload. There is no indication that it is building a secret airforce which it will use to take down competition – that would be silly.

Yuneec makes a range of drones built for aerial photography and imaging. Its technology also powers manned electric aircraft.


Qualcomm To Wirelessly Charge BMWs

September 8, 2015 by  
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Qualcomm has launched its new Official Safety Car for season two of the FIA’s Formula E Championship.

For those not in the know, the Formula E Championship is for electric cars, and they are no longer the milk floats that English people get stuck behind in narrow streets.

The new Official Qualcomm Safety Car is the BMW i8 but it will be charged wirelessly with an advanced Qualcomm Halo 7.2kW wireless charging system.

The Qualcomm Halo 7.2kW wireless charging system delivers twice the amount of energy to the BMW i8′s batteries per hour as compared to last year’s 3.6kW system.

This halves the full charge time, enabling the vehicle to fully charge in one hour. Employing Qualcomm Halo DD technology, with magnetic architecture optimization, ensures higher coupling coefficients and drives lower system currents, higher inefficiencies and the ability to support higher power levels.

A Qualcomm spokesman said that an open championship has encouraged teams to develop their own powertrain tech.

This ensures that the racing remains highly competitive, and it supports the goal of Formula E to advance the development of new technologies for electric vehicles and to bring those technologies, vital to sustainable mobility, to the attention of millions of people around the globe, a spokesman said.

Qualcomm’s general manager of wireless charging, Steve Pazol said Qualcomm was excited to continue its support of Formula E in this second season.


Will Qualcomm Give Some Workers The Boot?

July 23, 2015 by  
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Qualcomm is undergoing major restructuring and one side-effect of the overhaul is that some 4,000 jobs might be slashed.

The company, according to our well informed industry sources, will announce this during the upcoming Qualcomm Q3 FY15 earnings conference call that Is scheduled for July 22. We could not find out which jobs will be affected, but we expect that the company will shad more light on it during the call.

In December 2014 the company announced that it would slash some 900 jobs and it ended up slashing roughly 1,500 jobs. This will be the first major announcement and it comes at a bad time, as the company’s sales numbers are not that great. Qualcomm lost its highest end customer, Samsung, and companies like HTC who are using the Snapdragon 810 are not too happy about company’s highest end SoC offering.

Qualcomm has around 31,300 employees, which is still not that much considering that Intel has some 100,000, but its main SoC competitor, MediaTek, has just over 10,000 employees making its operational costs much smaller.

If the number of employees 31,300 didn’t change in recent months, slashing 4,000 jobs would mean cutting the 12.8 percent of the workforce. This is a major adjustment, no question about it.

Still, we believe that the server division will start making some money in 2016 and the new Snapdragon 820 is expected to start shipping later this year. In the long run, the company is more than fine, it is just that the competitors have changed from Nvidia and Intel to MediaTek.


Qualcomm Has No Plans To Split

July 16, 2015 by  
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US chipmaker Qualcomm has told the world that it will not be dumping its “essentially useless chip making” business.

Hedge fund Jana Partners said in April that Qualcomm would make a pile more dosh if it just stuck to being a patent troll and stopped trying to flog “essentially worthless” chips.

Apparently Qualcomm thought about it. Executive Chairman Paul Jacobs the idea has been talked about for a long time, but came to the conclusion that the status quo contained a lot more “synergies.” Apparently synergies are a good thing to have about the place, particularly if you have a breeding pair.

Jacobs was less optimistic about Jana Partners’ idea which was apparently full of dis-synergies which might eat the synergies – or just diss them in public.

Executive Chairman Paul Jacobs said all this intensifying industry competition was not enough to spin off his chip business from its patent-licensing business.

Jacobs said, however, that the company is always evaluating its options and that the situation could change in the future, so maybe there a future for a Qualcomm troll walloping other companies with dis-synergies.


Qualcomm Strengthens IoT Lineup

June 5, 2015 by  
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Qualcomm is wedging its foot more firmly in the Internet of Things (IoT) door by announcing a range of moves to secure its position in the market.

The first announcement sees the firm expanding its Internet of Everything (IoE) platform with the addition of six new ecosystem providers: Ayla Networks, Exosite, Kii, Proximetry, Temboo and Xively by LogMeIn.

“This will further simplify the development of devices that use WiFi to connect to the IoE by increasing cloud service flexibility and making these solutions available in a broader global reach,” Qualcomm said.

Qualcomm has also introduced two connectivity solutions, the QCA401x and QCA4531, which bring WiFi capabilities to connect products across development platforms and “give customers an expedited and cost-effective path to deployment”.

The QCA401x is designed to ease manufacturer demand for increased computing and memory while lowering size, cost and power consumption, Qualcomm said.

It features a fully integrated micro controller unit with up to 800KB of on-chip memory and an expanded set of interfaces to directly interconnect with sensors, display and actuators, further reducing system cost, size and complexity.

The QCA401x also includes a suite of communication protocols including Wi-Fi, IPv6, and HTTP, as well as an advanced security feature designed to maximise security in IoT devices.

The QCA4531 is a low-cost turnkey solution that brings high-performance connectivity with a user-programmable Linux/OpenWRT environment.

It is designed to serve as an IoT node taking advantage of the Linux framework and as a hub to enable an IoT Ecosystem.

“As the [IoT] ecosystem expands, the QCA4531 is ideal for multi-protocol bridging and communication, bringing together multiple wireless medium and bridging between different ecosystems,” said Qualcomm.

The QCA4531 can function as an Access Point supporting up to 16 simultaneous devices, and is also power-optimised to enable appliances to meet international standards for energy efficiency.

The firm also banged on about the development of its subsidiaries Qualcomm Technologies, Qualcomm Atheros, Qualcomm Life, and Qualcomm Connected Experiences, and their progress across its range of IoT technologies.

Broadly, this includes an increased focus on providing better connectivity in the smart home with the AllSeen Alliance, as well as the development of more wearables in more countries, deploying more connected cars, more active engagements in smart city developments and partnering with more customers for connected healthcare.

“Driven by the significant growth and diversity of interconnected devices, Qualcomm companies are delivering the solutions and collaborating with technology leaders to empower manufacturers to create the best connected experiences in homes, businesses, cars and cities,” the firm said.

Qualcomm also announced additional features in its AllPlay smart media platform, including Bluetooth to WiFi re-streaming, custom audio settings and optimised synchronisation. The new AllPlay feature combines Bluetooth and WiFi for “whole home streaming”.

This means that all local or cloud-based music on a consumer’s smartphone can be streamed to any Bluetooth-compatible AllPlay speaker and then re-streamed over WiFi to multiple AllPlay speakers, all in sync.

This allows simple wireless connectivity to individual speakers or an entire home audio system over the user’s existing home WiFi network, providing an advantage over Bluetooth-only speakers which are limited to one-to-one streaming.

“The range and capacity of WiFi, coupled with the ubiquity of Bluetooth, is a game-changing combination for manufacturers and consumers alike,” said Sy Choudhury, senior director of product management at Qualcomm.

“AllPlay device manufacturers like Hitachi and Monster can now offer their customers more connectivity options and access to myriad streaming services throughout their home with this new capability.”

Qualcomm announced last month that it has teamed up with Dutch semiconductor maker NXP to bolster its near field communication offering, expanding the technology outside the smartphone and into IoT devices.

NXP’s embedded secure element will be integrated across Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800, 600, 400 and 200 processor-based platforms.

The new offering features a module variant derived from the recently launched NXP PN66T NQ220 module, now named the NQ220.


Toshiba And SanDisk Launch 3D Flash Chip

April 10, 2015 by  
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Toshiba has announced the world’s first 48-layer Bit Cost Scalable (BiCS) flash memory chip.

The BiCS is a two-bit-per-cell, 128Gb (16GB) device with a 3D-stacked cell structure flash that improves density and significantly reduces the overall size of the chip.

Toshiba is already using 15nm dies so, despite the layering, the finished product will be competitively thin.

24 hours after the first announcement, SanDisk made one of its own regarding the announcement. The two companies share a fabrication plant and usually make such announcements in close succession.

“We are very pleased to announce our second-generation 3D NAND, which is a 48-layer architecture developed with our partner Toshiba,” said Dr Siva Sivaram, executive vice president of memory technology at SanDisk.

“We used our first generation 3D NAND technology as a learning vehicle, enabling us to develop our commercial second-generation 3D NAND, which we believe will deliver compelling storage solutions for our customers.”

Samsung has been working on its own 3D stacked memory for some time and has released a number of iterations. Production began last May, following a 10-year research cycle.

Moving away from the more traditional design process, the BiCS uses a ‘charge trap’ which stops electrons leaking between layers, improving the reliability of the product.

The chips are aimed primarily at the solid state drive market, as the 48-layer stacking process is said to enhance reliability, write speed and read/write endurance. However, the BiCS is said to be adaptable to a number of other uses.

All storage manufacturers are facing a move to 3D because, unless you want your flash drives very long and flat, real estate on chips is getting more expensive per square inch than a bedsit in Soho.

Micron has been talking in terms of 3D NAND since an interview with The INQUIRER in 2013 and, after signing a deal with Intel, has predicted 10TB in a 2mm chip by the end of this year.

Production of the chips will roll out initially from Fab 5 before moving in early 2016 to Fab 2 at the firm’s Yokkaichi Operations plant.

This is in stark contrast to Intel, which mothballed its Fab 42 chip fabrication plant in Chandler, Arizona before it even opened, as the semiconductors for computers it was due to produce have fallen in demand by such a degree.

The Toshiba and Sandisk BiCS chips are available for sampling from today.