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Indoor location is Qualcomm's latest growth drive

As chip vendor's value overtakes Intel's, new applications are key, and it announces positioning deal with Cisco


Published: 16 November, 2012

READ MORE: Qualcomm | Location | Semiconductor

Qualcomm overtook its larger rival Intel in terms of market value, for the first time, after it announced positive quarterly results last week. CEO Paul Jacobs has built on that milestone by predicting that the firm can continue to grow earnings in double digits over the next five years.

This seems like a bold prediction given the intense competitive and price pressures in the mobile chip business, but delivering on the promise will depend on broadening the base too, ensuring high-profit IPR revenues stay strong and moving into new chip markets. Tablets and other larger-screened devices, and at the other end of the scale, embedded modules, are all being targeted for the Snapdragon platform, while the acquisition of Atheros has added important revenues in Wi-Fi and powerline.

The latest extension of Qualcomm's non-consumer business is in indoor positioning, an increasing important area as users look for the same quality of location services even when out of the reach of GPS, usually indoors. The chip vendor is working with Cisco on applications for public and private venues, combining Cisco's wireless infrastructure with Qualcomm's iZat indoor location services platform.

"Qualcomm Atheros is enhancing the mobile experience by providing more precise context about who, and what, is nearby - in any environment," said Cormac Conroy, VP for location products and technology at the chip firm. "Working with Cisco to build an ecosystem of interoperable positioning technologies, we are creating new opportunities for mobile OEMs, operators and venues to roll out location-based services."

The goal is to make devices based on Snapdragon more attractive to users - the services work when a Snapdragon product is nearby, or within networks powered by Cisco's Mobile Services Engine Wi-Fi platform. As well as chasing Intel's market value, Qualcomm also plans to emulate its famous 'Intel Inside' branding campaign to encourage consumers actively to seek out gadgets running Snapdragon.

Qualcomm says its location technologies have shipped in more than one billion mobile devices and the firm recently upgraded its IZat location platform to enable more precise positioning (within 3-5 meters) inside buildings. This is an area where Nokia, which has put mapping at the heart of its strategy, is also very active, and seeking to set standards for indoor positioning.

Meanwhile, Cisco's Connected Mobile Experience platform supports the new Wi-Fi Passpoint (HotSpot 2.0) standards which allow for automatic log-in, and hand-off to cellular connections. Cisco's Mobility Services Engine uses existing access point infrastructure to determine indoor location for devices and support personalized services.

"We want to take the current popularity and reach of conventional outdoor navigation and location apps and extend it to indoor venues all over the world," said Sujai Hajela, general manager of Cisco's wireless networking business unit.

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