Qualcomm readies ‘super-30’ IoT bundles, ‘cracks code’ for smart-city ROI
Qualcomm has released a new ‘services suite’ that pulls together full-stack tech IoT componentry into a modular plug-and-play IoT solution for cities and city-based ‘verticals’. The chip-maker declared it has “cracked the code” for smart cities with the bundle, on the grounds it removes complexity from the bargain, and introduces a practical money-making matrix for tech sellers and tech buyers to rationalise their investments.
Responding to a question about how the smart cities market has ‘heard it all before’, Sanjeet Pandit, senior director of business development and global head of smart cities at Qualcomm, comments: “We are not here to make big claims; and it is for others to say they are better. We just want to be the first, and this IoT services suite is the first, out-of-the-box, to crack the code on monetization, and crack the code on revenue share.”
For ‘monetization’, read: how a city or enterprise puts new digital services to work on the back of their new infrastructure and gadgetry, and how they get payback on their investment by charging citizens and other end users for them. For revenue share; read: how the tech partners responsible for the component parts in the solution divvy-out the proceeds. “Cities don’t have a clue how to make this stuff pay. With this, the technology becomes self-sustaining and the investment covers itself – and they get to offer services that benefit citizens.”
The new IoT bundles are ostensibly geared towards the smart cities market; except the smart cities market is hard to grasp, and even harder to make pay. Qualcomm has grouped ‘smart cities’ and ‘smart spaces’ together, and shunted just about every other industrial vertical – which might or might not be city-based – into the latter grouping. “It is not just about smart cities,” Pandit tells Enterprise IoT Insights.
“It is about smart connected spaces – airports, ports, campuses, warehouses, hospitals, retirement homes; these kind of bespoke verticals within a city. We are focused on both the smart city side of things, and the smart spaces ecosystem.” But while Qualcomm has so far released four IoT service modules that might, at a stretch, be construed as mostly-urban disciplines (construction, education, healthcare, and logistics), it has a bunch more planned that go beyond the city limits, and into the fields of mining and farming, for example.
“We are not stopping there. We are going across multiple other verticals, into mining and agriculture, and across 30 verticals. We will create this ‘super-30’ set, over and above the smart cities portion. And we’re calling it ‘X-as-a-service’, where the solution is ready to go, with all the hardware and software, and all of the monetization sorted out for customers and a revenue share for partners,” he says.
These ‘vertical’ IoT solutions make play of a common set of IoT tools, defined in the new IoT services suite, and contributed variously by 300-odd members of Qualcomm’s burgeoning smart cities accelerator programme; the new super-30 solutions will bring in new vertical expertise, noted Pandit. The accelerator programme is presented as “like Match.com for cities and solution providers”; the modular IoT suite is like a “sushi menu”.
The IoT suite comprises certain functions as-standard; the key component is the central operating platform, Zyter SmartSpaces, from US system integrator Zyter. The as-a-service vertical solutions offered within it are cobbled together from members of the accelerator programme, to suit each use case, whether for spot solutions, or for a cross-pollination of venue-wide, campus-wide, or city-wide applications.
The education package, pitched initially to US school districts, bundles sundry “smart-classroom” technologies for members OneScreen and HoverCam; the construction offer, prioritizing worker safety and digital operations, is tailored by industrial systems specialist Everguard; the logistics and healthcare bundles integrate tracking and monitoring from companies Cloudleaf and Tag-N-Trac, and from LucidAct Health, VeeMed, and Ceiba, respectively. Qualcomm has worked to ensure its accelerator solutions are engineered to work together, end-to-end”.
“IoT is a fragmented market, and a team sport; there is no question about that. There is a lot to do, and you cannot do it alone. We have more than 300 members; all of them are best-of-breed. We hand select and feed and filter, and make this a real B2B marketplace. If they don’t solve a problem, [they don’t get in]. It brings everyone together under one roof – from cloud provider, to app developer, to someone who trenches roads or erects poles and drives a bucket truck. And it’s free; it is one repository,” says Pandit.
Interestingly, Qualcomm is leveraging municipal interest in their own cellular LTE and 5G networks in the US, with the recent availability of 3.55.-3.7 GHz CBRS spectrum for shared and private usage. The firm is in talks with the City of New Orleans and the Port of San Diego about pinning more expansive IoT activity onto the back of their private LTE interests.
Pandit comments: “Then they bring in their CBRS network to go a step further with their smart-city agendas, and to move their networking business in-house, and away from the carriers, which they have been paying millions of dollars to. And that way they can offer [and monetize] connectivity to citizens, as well as manage connectivity for all of their own digital services and applications.”
The same principle works for ‘smart spaces’, as well, he notes, particularly among the factory-set, with a keen interest to keep their machine data and network control private. Qualcomm has a close interest in the development of industrial 5G, and a close hand in a number of pilot factory-5G setups. “We are moving towards infrastructure at Qualcomm, and we are working with factory providers, and everybody else [in that space].”
But the point is to make stuff easy for cities, and to re-use the same technologies and principles, and capture the lower-hanging fruit with private enterprises, as well. Because smart cities are hard, to the point the sector has stalled in 2020, splitting instead into a collection of verticals, as with the Qualcomm categorisation.
Pandit says: “If we don’t take the complexity out of the deployment, it is always going to be a challenge. We are going to be the virtual CTOs and problem-solvers for these kinds of enterprises and cities. That’s why we started the accelerator programme, because somebody has to take the system-level complexity out of this. Otherwise, it is always going to be stuck in the same gear.”
Will it work? If Qualcomm has cracked the code finally, after others have tried and failed, will this be easily replicated, so ‘smart cities’ becomes a viable short-term prospect again? He responds: “If you ask if this is going to be 100-percent easily-replicable, the answer is, ‘no’. It cannot be. Every use case is different. But will it ease the replication? Absolutely, yes. In our case, our motto is very simple: we innovate, we integrate, and then we replicate.”