Qualcomm, a Connected FutureBy Alejandro Enríquez | Wed, 06/03/2020 - 06:00
Q: What is Qualcomm developing under the “Invention Age” concept?
A: We are a pure technological company with more than 40,000 employees globally. Under Invention Age, we develop the technology the world requires to be connected and to change industries that naturally remain disconnected. We have connected people for over 30 years. We also have infrastructure that goes beyond phones and our second focus beyond these devices is the automotive industry. There are more than 100 million cars in the world with a Qualcomm component in them. If you are connected via Bluetooth in a car, there is a two-in-three chance that you are using a Qualcomm chip. Our concept is to be disruptive and the next big wave of inventions will include the Internet of Things, the next generation of connected auto and 5G.
Q: How will 5G enable connected vehicles?
A: 2G was the digitalization of voice, 3G integrated internet connection to voice and SMS. When 3G appeared, the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) emerged. This organism defines how devices are connected, from power, band, energy and the way this connection is established. Then 4G emerged exclusively for data connection, although the newest devices handle both voice and data. In Mexico, 4G technology is advancing at its own pace. Even though 4G can provide very good connectivity, it is not designed for massive use. Thus, 5G’s first goal is to provide an enhanced mobile broadband. 4G handled 1GB of data, while 5G is designed for 20GB of data. 5G can be used in a 4G network but data travels faster. The automotive industry is waiting for 5G networks and their greater broadbands and faster connections (lower latencies) to process what autonomous cars are seeing. The truly autonomous car will focus not only on the car’s immediate surroundings, but on the interconnectedness of all the devices in the environment.
In addition, vehicles will need a really low latency to make crucial decisions, such as emergency breaking. Thus, 5G’s second pillar is mission critical systems. In these, latency is around 1ms. The best network today has a 10ms latency, which was 4G’s objective. Latency refers to the time data takes to get from one point to another. For instance, our body reacts to impulses in 100ms while our eyes can move as fast as 10ms. Mission critical systems also require a really strong network where less than 1 out of 100 million information packages are lost.
5G’s third pillar is massive connection. The premise of 5G is the ability to connect 1 million devices per square kilometer to increase signal drastically. In perspective, the Super Bowl is a massive event where everyone wants to be connected. To cover the 100,000-people event, the organizers required 1,000 Wi-Fi hotspots, which equals 100 4G stations or just 10 5G stations. For vehicles, it is necessary to have multiple devices connected at the same time in a similar area, which is where the C-V2X protocol enters the scene.
Q: How will the C-V2X protocol enable safer vehicles?
A: The C-V2X protocol handles the multiple connections that vehicles will have with other devices, such as traffic lights, other vehicles and cellphones. This 3GPP protocol was presented as an LTE platform with the ability to connect two devices without the need of a network. Cellphone operators dismissed the use of this technology but it set the precedent for C-V2X. This technology has a network in which it can operate but when necessary, the vehicle can create its own network as an LTE. Infrastructure is expensive, which is why C-V2X will evolve to render infrastructure everywhere unnecessary. For example, a traffic light, a crosswalk, trolley or even bike helmets with sensors can be an access point for that unified environment.
Volvo is really advanced in the application of C-V2X technologies and is performing several tests on their functionality. For example, take a scenario where a car is reversing and a bike and a truck are nearby. The biker’s helmet, the truck and the vehicle are connected, so while the biker does not have a user interface, he can sense the vibration from the helmet to avoid the car moving in reverse while the truck can emergency brake if needed. The variety of applications for this technology is wide: it can be used for managing fleets, controlling traffic in large cities and providing faster routes.
Q: What is the Qualcomm Snap Dragon Drive Platform?
A: There is at least one modem in most of our devices. Vehicles already have a 4G modem, but they will also have an additional modem for 5G and eventually will migrate to C-V2X. We work closely on improving connectivity through better technology implementation.
This innovation has already been developed in the logistics industry, where we have implemented a system that helps these companies to speed vehicle repairs. Instead of operators going to the dealership to check the vehicle whenever the “check engine” light turns on, we installed a device that can recognize where the malfunction is by running a complete scan. It then sends the results to the dealership when completed. The vehicle shows the user where the closest dealership is. The dealership, in turn, receives a notification that specifies the component the vehicle needs. As a result, the driver loses little time in going through the entire operation.
The Snap Dragon Drive platform provides the technology to offer that connectivity at the global level, which is not easy. Networks used in Europe, the US and Mexico are not the same. We have the ability to offer these solutions since we work for everyone. The challenge for these services was infrastructure. What we did was to deliver an end-to-end solution. The platform is like a communication control unit integrated in the vehicle that provides connectivity and a state-of-the-art processor. We need the processor for all the images the car is sending and all the information it is receiving from the multiple sensors it has.
Q: How does Qualcomm contribute to ADAS and autonomous vehicles?
A: ADAS systems are already the result of the vehicle taking action on all the information it receives from sensors. Vehicles have a modem from us, a System on a Chip (SOC) that contains a central processor, an image signal processor (ISP) and a digital signal processor (DSP). The combination of all these toolkits enables artificial intelligence. By taking all the information, the vehicle starts making decisions.
The different levels of automation in a vehicle go from 0 to 5. Level 1 includes cruise control. Level 2 is partial autonomy including braking systems, which start to take action based on a sensor. Level 3 is conditional. Level 4 is high automation and Level 5 is full automation. Levels 1 to 4 require human assistance. Level 5 needs zero human intervention. Most of the new models in the market are located between Levels 3 and 4 of automation. Tesla, for example, has an autonomous vehicle based solely on what the vehicle sees.
Q: What will the vehicle of the future look like?
A: The vehicle of the future will be connected. It will have more sensors, be automated, shared and electric. Shared mobility will be a game changer since vehicles remain parked 90 percent of the time. Qualcomm provides the fundamental technology for OEMs to adapt to these trends. We are really advanced in image processing and many more processes that companies can use. Audi is one of our main customers and it has developed greatly in connectivity applications. We are taking the next step toward infotainment, where drivers have maps, music and most of their applications embedded in the car. SEAT and Audi already have augmented reality applications, for example. Through an app, you can open the vault of the vehicle and locate they key points of the engine. We provide the technology that enables those applications even though we do not develop them ourselves.
Qualcomm is a US technology company focused on mobile technology for data processing. The company was founded in the 1980s and over the years has generated technological breakthroughs on mobile connectivity