Qualcomm launches Aware Platform to simplify IoT

Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. has launched the Qualcomm Aware Platform, leveraging the company’s chips, tools and ecosystem, together with its API-first architecture approach, to accelerate IoT deployments across multiple industries. Addressing the connected intelligence edge, the IoT platform encompasses location services, connectivity management, condition monitoring and end-to-end security.

Designed to help developers and companies use real-time information and data insights to accelerate their digital transformation, Qualcomm will initially target supply-chain and logistics applications.

Digital transformation of operations and physical assets in multiple industries is a real opportunity for everyone—customers and technology and platform providers—to enable more visibility and value creation, said Mohammed Ansari, senior director, business development, Qualcomm Technologies, during a product briefing.

Qualcomm pegs the digital transformation opportunity at about $700 billion (total addressable market). This connected intelligent edge includes Qualcomm’s devices and low-power compute platforms, connected to the cloud and application and service layers from all parts of the ecosystem. “We see a real opportunity for us to reduce friction for hardware developers to work with multiple clouds and for cloud developers to work easily with multiple hardware built ON Qualcomm silicon,” Ansari said.

Less than 15% of companies, according to MIT Sloan and Capgemini, are executing on a digital strategy due to challenges, such as legacy systems still deployed, companies working through ROIs to transfer to more modern systems, and a skills gap, Ansari said. How does a company deal with digitizing infrastructure and application layers and deal with data and security, integrating OT systems with IT systems? “All of those skills are still not widely available to every company,” he said.

“In addition, there are the silos that exist within organizations, within platforms and within disparate systems because data sharing is not easily accessible to the application layer and to the business in general,” Ansari added. “So for all of those reasons, while the opportunity is significant and massive and the opportunity to impact and create value for customers is massive, there are these hurdles, and Qualcomm Aware is really trying to address and accelerate that digital transformation journey across multiple industries and across multiple use cases.”

The Aware Platform includes cloud security tools and encryption and mutual authentication of all device-to-cloud communications. It also delivers global cellular connectivity, device management and provisioning. It supports location services, including GNSS, Wi-Fi, 4/5G-CRS, geofences and QoS and context hybrid location and offers extensive interoperability/roaming, initially supporting global 2G, LTE, 5G, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Qualcomm launches Aware Platform to simplify IoT

(Source: Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.)

Qualcomm said today’s ecosystem fragmentation and system design complexity often prevents IoT deployments from meeting their fullest potential. The new platform with silicon, an ecosystem of hardware and software partners and a “developer-friendly” cloud network offers differentiated services for managing assets.

Ansari explained that a company can have great technology, but if there isn’t a great experience in adopting it, which he calls a “frictionless experience,” then the company doesn’t make an impact.

The Aware platform makes data accessible from Qualcomm’s silicon-based hardware to all of its ecosystem partners, including cloud and application companies and system integrators, and makes it easier for hardware developers to talk to the cloud and for cloud developers to talk to Qualcomm silicon-based hardware, he said.

In addition to global connectivity, the platform will intelligently optimize and “fuse” location technologies with sensor alerts and critical device management and control features. Use cases include cold chain distribution, utility asset monitoring and cargo shipment tracking, as well as warehouse and inventory management.

Reducing friction from the silicon to the cloud

The key job of the Aware platform, as described by Ansari, is to “reduce the friction of stitching an IoT solution that is built on connected platforms.” This means that connectivity management and transport layer optimizations with Qualcomm’s hardware are front and center.

“Connectivity management could be through several different connectivity frameworks, protocols or frequencies or radios, whether it’s different types of cellular technologies, Wi-Fi, and, in the future, technologies like satellite, and also there might be opportunities to bring in mesh-type networks where satellite and cellular may not be applicable,” Ansari said. “Connecting those mediums to the cloud is a complex task.”

There is also optimizing the transport protocols and the different applications with different requirements, he said, adding that it is also important to optimize what happens on the device edge from power consumption, duty cycle and sensing perspectives.

“We’re also mindful of security,” Ansari said, adding that both the edge and transport layers are secure from device to cloud or edge to cloud and then from cloud-to-cloud APIs.

“Security is really the heart of all of our silicon platforms,” he said. “We have the best root-of-trust technology, secure boot, trust zones and even more in terms of how we manage keys both on the device and during the manufacturing process and how we provision all of that in the silicon.”

One of the basic principles of Qualcomm’s architecture is that it works with all clouds and across deployment models, such as enterprise cloud or on-premises. “Our API-first approach allows us to connect to any applications, whether these are cloud-native applications or developer communities that are already subscribed to a particular cloud infrastructure or enterprise systems such as ERP [enterprise resource planning], WMS [warehouse management system] and CRM [customer relationship management] systems,” Ansari said.

And Qualcomm is building value around the technology, such as location tracking, as an example. “We have a multi-technology stack that can operate at the edge, and part of it operates in the cloud,” he said. “We can abstract the complexity of doing location tracking for mobile assets and for supply chain inventory, for example.”

Ansari said Qualcomm Aware takes on the burden of making abstractions and adapters for all connectivity protocols, whether they are operating in a mesh, at the edge or in factories.
“We make that available—the data coming through those protocols—to all of the cloud applications and cloud infrastructure because we are portable and we are API-first.”

This means it will make it easier for hardware, cloud and application developers to work with Qualcomm silicon-based hardware, allowing them to focus on the application layer and data analytics—higher-value products for their customers, Ansari explained. “We will do this across all industries, but with the launch, we are prioritizing the logistics and supply chain industry first.”

The three pillars of the Aware Platform

Ansari said the Aware platform centers on three key pillars: technology leadership, extensive hardware and software partners and an API-first architecture and developer-friendly tools that enable interoperability with partner clouds and leading enterprise software tools.

Technology leadership extends to Qualcomm’s IoT modem chipsets, of which over 350 million have been shipped to date, Ansari said.

“We are focused on optimizing the chip all the way to the cloud, and this optimization is across a few parameters or vectors, whether it’s power or memory, and also across the transport protocol and across price points,” he said.

“We’re trying to make the solution as cost-effective for enterprises and for our hardware manufacturers as possible, and we will play our part by attempting to reduce the BOM [bill of materials] and complexity on the edge devices,” he added. “[We don’t control] all of those pieces, but we can enable by providing this optimized approach,” he added.

“The SDK approach used by a lot of our competitors is good, but it also takes more memory,” Ansari explained. “It sometimes consumes more power, and so by stitching together a solution across cloud and silicon, we also circumvent some of those challenges that are posed by an SDK approach on the device.”

Focused on location services first, this is one area that Qualcomm has doubled down on with key acquisitions. These acquisitions, including Skyhook Wireless, Inc. and PoLTE Corporation, help extend Qualcomm’s technology leadership along with its product and technology portfolios.

In combination with the company’s existing location technology, these acquisitions enable Qualcomm Aware to deliver intelligent and ubiquitous always-on and low-power location capabilities.

And the technologies are adaptive. The location technology suite works in difficult signal environments, and when devices are offline, it provides awareness and condition-monitoring context to enterprise solutions, enabling end-to-end asset and operational visibility.

“We are making sure that the location determination across different environments—whether it’s indoors, in urban canyons or in rural areas, or whether it’s in docks, in ports or in warehouses—that our technology is adaptive to all of those application use cases and the right support structure is maintained and we pay special attention to those types of tracking solutions that are battery-operated and have to live for five, seven, or 10 years in the field,” Ansari said.

As for the Qualcomm ecosystem of hardware and software partners, they provide a range of different solutions to meet requirements in a variety of industry applications, enabling connected solutions tailored to different use cases.

The platform will include Qualcomm Aware blueprints, which are individualized and scalable solution architectures customized for specific use cases, said Qualcomm. Independent software vendors and system integrators will help companies roll out pre-designed solutions tailored for their use cases.

Another key part of the platform is mobility or connectivity management. This means making sure the assets and inventories are visible in real time. “This cannot happen if we don’t have extensive ubiquitous, reliable connectivity and we work with all the right partners in the ecosystem to integrate the connectivity to the Aware solution,” Ansari said.

In terms of the API-first architecture, Qualcomm Aware is a customizable platform that uses standard APIs to provide interoperability, for example, with private clouds, industry-specific application platforms, existing enterprise software tools for ERP, supply chain management and inventory management. One of the first integrations will be with Microsoft Dynamics 365.

“We have developer-friendly APIs and tools,” Ansari said. Web developers, and not just embedded developers, will be able to work on IoT solutions using the right tools that they are used to—RESTful and streaming APIs—that are accepted within the web world, he said.

“We also create cloud connectors with large enterprise systems, whether they are ERP, CRM and WMS, or in the future factories with MES [manufacturing execution systems] systems,” he added. “We make it easier by having recipes or connector frameworks already available for customers to adopt and customize or system integrators to customize.

“We are not only providing an enablement solution,” Ansari said. “We’re also providing an enterprise-ready enablement solution so that the data can be ingested into those business platforms.”

The Aware platform will expand Qualcomm’s traditional hardware business model, allowing the company to offer services that deliver recurring, subscription-based revenues. The first device will be a tracking device applicable to supply chain and logistics customers. The Aware platform will be available later this year.

However, Ansari makes it clear that Qualcomm will not be in the business of building the applications for asset tracking and supply chain or analytics. The Aware platform will make it easier for players in these areas to connect Qualcomm silicon to the cloud and handle the data from the silicon.

“We’re trying to do what Google did for search,” Ansari said. “We’re trying to make sure that data coming off of Qualcomm-enabled hardware devices is universally accessible in an efficient way.”


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