Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: CES 2015: The Big Trends for Business

CES 2015: Qualcomm's connected world plan chugs along with minor updates

Qualcomm Inc. CEO Steven Mollenkop suggested at AT&T's Developer Summit that Qualcomm sees itself as "an enabler" in the wider Internet-of-Things movement.

LAS VEGAS---At first glance, it might look like the connected car has taken the front seat over the connected home at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show this week.

But Qualcomm is firmly focused on supporting Wi-Fi infrastructures connecting devices and apps throughout homes and offices.

From smart watches to digital eyewear to kid trackers, Qualcomm already has more than 15 connected wearable tech products shipping to over 30 countries.

But compared to Qualcomm's slew of announcements at CES last year, this year's agenda was more of a over-the-air update than a brand new platform of any kind.

Qualcomm Atheros, the San Diego-headquartered company's wireless chipset subsidiary, pushed out an update on the MU | EFX multi-input/multi-output (MU-MIMO) Wi-Fi technology that debuted last year. Qualcomm asserts the multi-user infrastructure can as much as triple 802.11ac connections.

Thus, Qualcomm is feverishly working to see this technology incorporated into emerging connected home and work products, many of which are being showcased at the International CES this week. Qualcomm's collaborators range from computer and mobile makers Acer and Xiaomi to networking players such as D-Link, NEC and Amped Wireless.

Qualcomm Incorporated CEO Steven Mollenkop suggested earlier in the day at AT&T's Developer Summit that Qualcomm sees itself as "an enabler" in the wider Internet-of-Things movement.

"One of the pain points of enabling this space was interoperability," admitted Derek Aberle, president of Qualcomm Incorporated, while speaking at the chip maker's own International CES media event on Monday. He hinted that fostering the connected planet will emerge from one of Qualcomm's cornerstone verticals: smartphones.

Aberle cited a Gartner forecast from September 2014 that roughly 8 billion smartphones are expected to ship worldwide between 2014 to 2018.

More than one billion Android smartphones have shipped with Qualcomm Snapdragon processors inside on top of 860 million MSM chipset shipments in fiscal 2014. Going into 2015, Qualcomm is now on its fifth generation of LTE modems with the recently introduced Snapdragon 810 chip finding its way into a number of handhelds debuting at CES this week.

Smartphones, Aberle hinted, are going to serve as the basis for Qualcomm's Internet-of-Things roadmap from connected cars to healthcare.

Qualcomm has already signed up more than 500 organizations for its connected health ecosystem. For example, Walgreens, which has three connected health devices in the pipeline, tapped Qualcomm to provide the connectivity backbone.

Qualcomm Life, anticipating $36 billion in worldwide remote patient monitoring savings alone over the next five years. Aberle highlighted Qualcomm Life's HealthyCircles mobile app for sharing data deriving from these remote devices.

Aberle also touted the AllSeen Alliance, Qualcomm's entry in the open source alliance horse race for building tech with Internet-of-Things standards in mind. Aberle posited the tech industry overall would benefit from fewer of these organizations on the scene.

Nevertheless, Aberle existed that "we're still in the early days" of building a connecting world, adding later that "there's not going to be one right choice" for building and selling wearables. Such sentiments are exhibited well by the deluge of wearables on CES show floors this week.

Aberle concluded, "It's going to take a little bit of trial and error before we see what people gravitate toward."

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