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Qualcomm to reinvent the smarthome with new chip

Qualcomm on Wednesday introduced a new embedded processor line through its Atheros subsidiary to "transform networking devices like home gateways, routers, and media servers into 'smarthome' platforms," the company said at its annual analyst meeting in New York.

The chip maker is calling its new product line the Qualcomm Internet Processor (IPQ) platform. The first two IPQ products pair a dual-core, 1.4GHz Krait central processor with a new dual-core, 730MHz packet processor engine from Atheros.

Qualcomm said its IPQ8062 and IPQ8064 chipsets for retail routers and home media servers are currently in production and expected to be available in commercial product s in the first half of next year. Gateways and enterprise access points using the IPQ platform should arrive by mid-2014, the company said.

"Just as Qualcomm helped propel the smartphone experience and ecosystem, we are now employing the company's mobile DNA to enable the Smarthome as a platform to deliver an advanced class of content, applications, and services that can be enjoyed throughout the home," Amir Faintuch, president of Qualcomm Atheros, said in a statement.

The chip will be an important step in the development of "smarter buildings", an important component in the emerging trend of smart cities.

Qualcomm billed its IPQ line as way to turn home network equipment into more than just deliverers of broadband Internet. The dual-core Krait CPU can "manage advanced functions such as complex and demanding Internet-based applications and services," while the new Atheros packet processor engine can offload network traffic by supporting "up to 5 Gbps of aggregate capacity across LTE, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, HomePlug powerline, hybrid wired/wireless, and Ethernet," the company said.

Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst for Moor Insights & Strategy, described the new IPQ platform as a smart play for Qualcomm in a couple of adjacent technology markets that may be merging together.

"Qualcomm's new Internet Processor gets them into a space that is emerging with home automation and control, but also could help them in the current home service provider space for content and monitoring, too. In fact, I expect those two markets to combine over the long haul. The company has all of the IP, investment capability, quality, and stellar carrier relationships which come into play here," he said.

Secure and scalable

The IPQ platform includes Qualcomm's Trustzone and other security technology, and leverages architecture and 28-nanometre process technology advances to "bring new levels of power efficiency for the 'always on, always connected' home, according to Qualcomm, which claimed its Internet Processors "offer up to 70 per cent greater performance-per-watt than the nearest competitor."

The new line of embedded processors supports the PCIe, USB 3.0, SATA3, SDIO, and Gigabit Ethernet interfaces. Qualcomm described the IPQ platform as modular and scalable with "a flexible architecture and numerous media and networking interfaces to enable a full range of connected home products with different feature sets and use cases."

"Qualcomm is bringing together its mobile and networking expertise in the Internet Processor to extend its portfolio and enable new capabilities for network platforms. With this new class of high-performance, energy-efficient, and agile processors for home gateways and enterprise access points, Qualcomm is again demonstrating its ability and commitment to elevate consumer experiences by driving innovation at the edge of the network," Faintuch said.

At Wednesday's analyst meeting, Qualcomm also unveiled another Krait-based product, the new Snapdragon 805 mobile processor for tablets and smartphones, which features a next-gen Adreno 420 graphics processor to deliver Ultra HD (4K) resolution video, images, and graphics.

With the development of Nest Labs' Learning Thermostat, and its recently-released Nest Protect smart smoke alarm, it's safe to say the dream of smarter homes is fast becoming a reality.

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