Mobile technology will drive Internet of Things: Qualcomm’s Raj Talluri

Qualcomm’s senior vice-president Raj Talluri on the future of Internet of Things, impact of 5G and challenges in securing connected devices


Raj Talluri is senior vice-president of product management at Qualcomm Technologies.
Raj Talluri is senior vice-president of product management at Qualcomm Technologies.

Raj Talluri, senior vice president of product management at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., holds 13 US patents and was chosen as one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company in 2014. In an email interview, Talluri talks about the future of the Internet of Things (IoT), impact of 5G, and challenges in securing connected devices. Talluri will also address EmTech India 2017—an emerging tech conference organized by Mint and MIT Technology Review—on 10 March in New Delhi. Edited excerpts:

Qualcomm says it has already shipped more than a billion chips for IoT. Where are these chips being used and which sectors are poised to make the most of the emerging IoT opportunities?

There are great examples of Indian companies using our technologies on their IoT solutions. For instance, Snapdragon processors power ‘Ola Play’, the world’s first connected mobility platform for ride-sharing now in Ola cabs, as well as the IRIS EMV Point-of-Sale terminal solution recently introduced by YES Bank.

And we look forward to engaging with many more innovators through our “Qualcomm Design in India” programme which, in collaboration with Nasscom, looks to foster and develop the hardware design ecosystem in India by providing select start-ups with engineering support in our Innovation Labs in Bengaluru and Hyderabad, and seed funding through the programme’s “Design in India Challenge” competition series.

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Overall, we see good demand, interest and opportunity across many areas of IoT, including connected cameras, drones, home control and automation, home entertainment, smart cities, virtual reality and wearables.

What is common is that all these segments are absorbing connectivity and compute technologies originally developed for smartphones. Mobile technology will drive IoT, with verticals taking advantage of the scale, rapid development cycles and integrated technologies that come from smartphones.

How is the IoT space affected by the choice of processors available in the market or being developed for various connected devices?

IoT is an incredibly diverse ecosystem, with thousands of unique form factors and multiple vertical applications that will require a broad variety of processors, platforms and solutions, since the requirements of a smartwatch are very different from those of a connected camera, a smart meter or augmented reality glasses.

While many of the fundamental connectivity and compute technologies will be the same—many of those coming from the smartphone space—there is need for purpose-built platforms that put together these technologies into vertical-specific solutions.

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Furthermore, we expect new technologies such as 5G, machine learning, computer vision and voice recognition to significantly change the way we interact with devices around us in a variety of form factors, many of which we probably haven’t even imagined today. We offer over 25 high-quality reference platforms that can help our customers make a broad range of IoT products across multiple areas such as virtual reality, wearables, connected cameras, drones, audio and smart home.

Do you consider security and lack of interoperability of standards in the IoT space as hurdles to the progress of IoT? If yes, what is being done to address the issue?

Interoperability across different brands is a key requirement for IoT to develop, and for compelling use cases to emerge that entice the consumer to invest in both smart connected devices and smart infrastructure.

We are developing solutions designed to help devices and apps across multiple ecosystems communicate to each other (directly or through the cloud), easing ecosystem fragmentation.

For example, solutions that support all key wireless technologies for the home, such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and 802.15.4-based technologies, and multiple major protocols including HomeKit, Google Weave and Open Connectivity Foundation—all in the same System-on-Chip.

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Security is also a key priority, and we use our extensive security expertise and IP, which has been used in mobile phones for more than two decades, in our IoT connectivity chipsets across multiple applications.

This includes key hardware-based security components such as secure boot from hardware, root of trust, hardware crypto engines, secure authorization and authentication, secure storage and secure debug, and wireless protocol security.

We also collaborate with leading industry ecosystem providers to help our customers deliver security-focused end-to-end solutions.

Different fingerprint scanning and other biometric technologies are being used in smartphones for authentication and security. What are the next big trends in that direction?

Mobile transactions are most secure when they’re protected by a combination of user and device authentication methods. This helps ensure your data remains secure from the moment you log in to your device.

Beyond capacitive-based fingerprint authentication, which is now fairly commonplace on mobile devices, we see the next trends in this area being ultrasonic-based fingerprint scanning, such as our Snapdragon Sense ID 3D fingerprint technology, and multi-factor authentication. Both provide an extra layer of security, the latter combining different authentication methods like a camera-based biometric solution for eye, iris, or facial recognition, or secure voice recognition, to help ensure that only you can access your device.

IoT also requires strong security mechanisms across many other dimensions beyond biometrics, particularly where many kinds of IoT devices such as smart meters, industrial gateways, connected lights and others will not interface directly with people.

Security risks involve sniffer attacks, code injection and modification, encryption key compromises, password issues and man-in-the-middle attacks.

Hardware-based technologies are the foundation to providing the broad set of technologies required to protect IoT devices against all these risks, which is why we deliver hardware-based security features across our portfolio of IoT solutions.

A lot of hopes are pinned on the coming roll-out of 5G networks. How do you see the roll-outs panning out and making a big difference to businesses?

It is estimated that there will be more than 20 billion connected devices by the year 2020, and wireless connectivity is at the centre of it all.

We are designing 5G technology not only to connect people, but also to bring more reliable, efficient, lower-cost connectivity to IoT.

5G New Radio (NR) is a new, flexible 5G air interface that will scale efficiently for all kinds of IoT applications, from high-end surveillance cameras down to ultra low-cost sensors.

While there is a lot of excitement around 5G, it is going to take some time before 5G networks proliferate.

5G NR interoperability trials are planned to start in the second half of 2017, and early 5G NR deployments will begin in the 2019 time frame—with initial focus on mobile broadband capabilities.

To meet today’s immediate demand for low-power, wide-area IoT, LTE IoT technologies come into play. For instance, Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) is part of the latest wave of LTE Advanced Pro innovations, defined in 3GPP Release 13 and beyond, which extends LTE to even narrower bandwidth that is optimized for low data rate, latency-tolerant IoT applications.

NB-IoT reduces device complexity, enables multi-year battery life, and provides deeper coverage to reach sensors and meters in challenging locations such as remote rural areas or inside buildings. This is important as we design smarter cities and buildings.

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