Qualcomm upends the automotive infotainment market

CES 2016: Audi likes the new chips, so does Tencent

Qualcomm Snapdragon logoQualcomm kicked off CES with an upending of the automotive infotainment market. While SemiAccurate thinks the hardware announced isn’t a sea change, the partnerships are.

If you look at the hardware side there are two new chips for that market, the Snapdragon 820A and the 820AM, both hardened versions of the consumer 820 devices. As you know this chip is a 4-core 64-bit custom ARM v8 device with serious multimedia encode and decode capabilities. In an odd twist, this new and upcoming device is not the focus of the automotive announcements at CES but it probably will be in two years.

What was the big news was the older 602A device, basically the last generation part with nowhere near the capabilities of the upcoming 820 line. Why is it news? Because Audi is going to use it across the board on their 2017 models with a few arriving in late 2016, the rest spread across 2017. Yes that means Nvidia has been kicked to the curb at their flagship ‘win’ in the field.

QUalcomm 820A/Am MIB module

Qualcomm 820A/Am module

Qualcomm is also announcing an upgradable module called MIB, basically an auto infotainment cartridge that you can replace when new silicon arrives. The first one will be 820A/Am based and it doesn’t look like much but what it can do is just the opposite. With one 820 MIB you get an LTE modem, enough graphics and media encode/decode to push many screens, and a DSP for assisted driving. All of this in a single SoC.

During their demo, Qualcomm had a car dashboard setup with a single large 4K center screen, dual 1080p screens for the back seat, two phones working as controllers, and a full dashboard display of unspecified resolution. All of this was being driven by the 820A/Am at once while it was processing multiple camera inputs for assisted driving. Not bad for a phone chip, eh?

On the non-phone side, the first consumer 820 device was shown off, the LeTV Le Max Pro. About the only thing that stood out with the device announcement was the inclusion of an 802.11ad radio for wireless docking and high rez displays. Given LeTV’s heritage as a TV maker, a 60GHz radio is a decent fit with their mainstream product lines. Any guesses what their new TV will probably have, at least optionally, for connectivity?

Back to the silicon there was an interesting new announcement, a radio chip called the 9207-1. This is an LTE Cat1 device, basically an ultra-low bandwidth radio that takes tiny amounts of energy to do its thing. How tiny? Expect the cells you use it with to self-discharge before the radio drains them, Qualcomm claims 10 years of life from two AA batteries. Data rates are not going to impress you but that is OK for the intended market, sensors and low-end IoT devices, they can all have a real WAN now.

Tencent Ying drone

Tencent’s Ying drone platform

The last thing that caught our eye was an announcement based on the Snapdragon flight platform, basically a standard Snapdragon with pre-rolled drone software and OS features. The announcement was from Tencent and it was for their new Ying drone. The cool thing about the Ying is that it has a camera that you can livestream videos from across QQ, basically they made hardware to use with their messaging platform. Remember when it was the other way around?S|A

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Charlie Demerjian

Roving engine of chaos and snide remarks at SemiAccurate
Charlie Demerjian is the founder of Stone Arch Networking Services and SemiAccurate.com. SemiAccurate.com is a technology news site; addressing hardware design, software selection, customization, securing and maintenance, with over one million views per month. He is a technologist and analyst specializing in semiconductors, system and network architecture. As head writer of SemiAccurate.com, he regularly advises writers, analysts, and industry executives on technical matters and long lead industry trends. Charlie is also a council member with Gerson Lehman Group. FullyAccurate