Supply chain
Mobile and IoT technologies integrated with AI features to enable data driven solutions
Staff, DIGITIMES, Taipei

Computex Taipei has long been one of the most important tradeshows worldwide for engineers and executrives in ICT industries. On May 31, 2017, Digitimes hosted Computex 2017 Mobile and IoT technology forum, featuring speakers from various sectors to share their views of the future of IoT technology leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) capability.

IBM leveraging IIoT technologies for cognitive manufacturing

Internet of Things combining and converging sensor technologies and robotics is driving profound transformations of the industrial system. As more factories and equipment are equipped with IoT devices, data volume will double by 2020 and computing must become more cognitive to properly process, analyze and optimize the information. This is a key focal point of the talk by Mike Chang, IBM Cloud Adoption leader. He talked about the concept of "cognitive manufacturing," which involves a set of smart manufacturing solutions with cognitive IoT technology via IBM Watson cognitive computing technologies.

Integrated with IoT and AI, according to Chang, cognition involves three key elements: understanding, reasoning and learning. Through cognitive computing technologies, the concept of mass production will be replaced by smart automated production, which will help Taiwan manufacturers handle orders that come in small volumes and big varieties.

There are four layers of cognitive manufacturing solutions: the data, predict, prescription and cognitive layers. IBM's approaches start with optimizing existing equipment. This will include many intra-factory activities. Then through B2B connectivity, it will have the chance to refine the value chains across the ecosystems. The next step is integrate with IoT technology in order to add values to the data collected from sensors. IBM is a leader in transforming technologies with Industrie 4.0, bringing together things that are instrumented, interconnected, inclusive and intelligent in order to generate insights from collected data and transform manufacturing.

Qualcomm broadens IoT portfolios

Qualcomm has been broadening its capabilities in IoT to meet the demands of an increasingly connected IoT world. ST Liew, VP and president of Qualcomm Taiwan, talked about semiconductor solutions accelerating IoT development. Qualcomm is moving from discrete ICs to integrated platforms. The company has over 25 different IoT reference platforms to help OEM and ODM partners shorten the development cycle and reduce time to market. The new applications range from drones, wearables, immersive VR/AR devices, smart home, smart cities, Industrial IoT, LTE for IoT and 5G New Radio. By the year 2020, Qualcomm semiconductor solutions will have migrated IoT to higher-speed connection to accommodate various fast-growing connected devices.

Part of Qualcomm's strategy to accelerate its growth in IoT has been to support Google's Android Things on its Snapdragon 210 processor. This is the 4G LTE-powered SoC capable of supporting Android Things and it also has a powerful quad-core processor and GPU in the market. The OEMs and developers start to utilize the Snapdragon 210 and see more and more affordable LTE-connected devices. This will help IoT devices are no longer limited to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity for communications.

In the smart home sector, Liew highlighted Qualcomm's new tri-mode dual-core SoC named the QCA4020 supporting Bluetooth Low Energy 5, dual-band Wi-Fi and 802.15.4 technologies including ZigBee and OpenThread. Considering how prevalent these three connectivity standards are in the home, it is the most logical combination of the three most commonly used communication protocols in the home. These chips also come with features from Qualcomm's recently announced Network IoT Connectivity Platform which includes pre-integrated support for HomeKit and OCF as well as cloud services using AWS IoT SDK or Microsoft Azure SDKs.

Qualcomm has also made announcements concerning IoT and 5G as well as upgrading its existing line of LTE chips scaling LTE to connect IoT devices and satisfy the huge demands for data today. When it comes to 5G, Qualcomm has been focused on supporting the 5G New Radio standard to build seamless connection.

VIA provides complete solutions for USB 3.1 Gen 1/ Gen2, USB Type-C

David Hsu, VIA Labs associate VP of product marketing, presented VIA's full line of chipsets for USB 3.1 and USB Type-C covering applications including hub, multi-functional docking, video dongle, cable, power bank, car charger and wall charger. VIA sees USB Type-C specification as a connector standard of the future. The emerging USB Type-C applications are phone docking stations and USB Type-C power charger of mobile peripherals.

For the battery pack solutions, VIA's products offer several unique features including switchable charging sequence to extend the battery life for mobile gaming console. VIA also provides silicon solutions for simple USB Type-C video dongle devices with support of bi-directional operation. The chipset lineups provide several turnkey solutions including "Multi-Function Dock," "Charging-thru Multi-Function Dock" for standalone hub or docking stations, "USB Type-C Mini-Dock/Dongle" for USB external drives, "DP-ALT mode" for video dongle or multimedia docking station. These turnkey solutions cover almost 85% design-in projects for USB Type-C electronics devices in the market.

Hsu noted that the adoption of USB Type-C trend will have more use cases than before. VIA is introducing more solutions to target different market segments. He concluded that the USB Type-C market relies on the right product in the right time with ease of use. And the most important thing is select a solid technology partner. VIA will help OEM and ODM vendors boost the USB Type-C demands.

Xperi enabling IoT experience with product licensing and semiconductor IPs

Xperi has four major brands including DTS, Fotonation, Invensas and Tessera. For these four brands, 50% of their revenues from product licensing businesses including premium audio systems and advanced imaging solutions. And the other 50% come from semiconductor packaging technologies and silicon interconnect technology. Xperi is expanding the ability to address new opportunities in IoT and AR/VR development through high-definition audio and image recognition technology. Vincent Ting, Xperi APAC sales director, indicated the current technology portfolios are ideally suited to deliver the next generation of audio and imaging solutions to mobile, consumer electronics, and automotive markets. The newly developed products range from DTS Virtual:X technology, HD Radio, DTS Play-Fi (streaming the music wirelessly in WiFi networks), DTS Headphone:X (providing users with heightened awareness headphones on VR headsets).

FotoNation researches and develops embedded image processing solutions for computer vision and computational imaging applications. Its video and image enhancement technologies can be found at the core of more than 25% of the all smartphones on the market, and other consumer imaging products.

Xperi integrated DTS' audio and digital radio technology solutions with Fotonation imaging solutions, which enable immersive experience through various devices to satisfy the future development of IoT technology.

Dialog pushing low power connectivity solutions for smart home

Wei Tong, product marketing manager of Dialog Semiconductor, talked about the explosive growth for smart home applications. Dialog is a proven chipset supplier in the RF world for over 20 years, especially in short-range 1.9GHz and 2.4GHz RF IC product matrix. Dialog SmartBond family chips use Bluetooth stack proven in millions of products all over the world. The low power performance is a result of Dialog's design expertise in mixed-signal power management & RF connectivity IC. Today, there have been over one billion units in Dialog RF IC shipments and the failure rates are below 10ppm.

In the smart home sector, Dialog silicon solutions are aiming for energy, security, control and convenience purposes. For the energy management, Dialog's chipsets manage heating and cooling machines through room sensors. And in the security sector, the chipsets for smart door locks will focus on reliability, security, low power consumption, small form factor and quick response. The same applications will also apply to other products such as window sensors and camera-based motion sensors.

Dialog is part of the Apple HomeKit ecosystem. Dialog's HomeKit Solution is the first HomeKit Accessory Protocol (HAP) BLE 2.0 certified solution on the market. All the actions can be grouped and triggered using Siri or Apple HomeKit enabled apps. Dialog will continue to maintain the strength to support leading smart home ecosystems including Apple HomeKit, Nest and other proprietary standards.

Macronix on smart connected devices for IoT

Grandy Hsueh, Macronix segment marketing deputy director, presented a talk on smart devices including home appliances and many others.

There are several challenges and expectations in the IoT market. People are concerned about the welfare of elderly people in agiging societies, security issues and energy savings, and smart home devices must be easy to control and work efficiently. Developers of smart home solutions still need to learn from mistakes, as the systems are mostly not flexible enough to make things easy in response to human needs, lifestyles and habits.

Smart home assistant will be a new solution to provide a good answer for users. He is very optimistic about seeing widespread usage in the modern home in the future.

All the smart devices require memory components. Macronix has full memory product lineups covering different kind of NVMs (non-volatile memory) with broad range of product portfolios.

Peraso upbeat about WiGig

Brad Lynch, senior VP, Product Development, Peraso, talked about WiGig (802.11ad), which is Gigabit WiFi standard working in the 60 GHz band and delivers up to 8Gbit per second data transmission. He highlighted WiGig is the next WiFi standard. The recent focus of development in 802.11ad is promoting Wi-Fi Certified WiGig certification, which was launched in Oct 2016. The major players include Dell, Intel, Peraso, Qualcomm and Socionext. Peraso is one of the top 3 WiGig chipset suppliers. Lynch presented applications focusing on WigGig networking, wireless VR/AR development and 5G fixed wireless broadband.

WigGig networking application is mainly for multi-gigabit Wi-Fi connectivity. It is a highly efficient, cost effective solution to provide gigabit Ethernet network in the office, home and public spaces including airports, malls and cafes. The data transfer rate is only seven seconds for transmitting a 1.45GB file at average transfer speed of 219 MBytes/s (or 1750 Mbits/s). The speed is two times faster than Ethernet Gigabit technology.

WiGig Direct is another attractive multi-gigabit wireless application featuring wireless 4K display, high speed media sync and wireless docking. Peraso chipsets provide the support for scalable USB network adaptors. For enhancing smartphone usability, Peraso chipsets also provide benefits for smartphone 4K screen casting, cloud data sync and on-the-go backup.

In the booming VR/AR segments, wireless data throughput increases user experience of VR headsets.The Peraso WigGig chipset offers a low cost, low power HMD solution with simple USB adapters on a VR source platform leveraging highly customizable antenna and software architecture.

Ayla IoT platform powers creativity through end-to-end services

Michel Maeso, Ayla Networks's VP of Global Sales & Service, talked about Ayla's end-to-end agile IoT platform as a service (PaaS) architecture. Ayla provides enterprise-class secure connectivity and cloud data services for Owlet to introduce innovative Smart Sock, which is the wearable baby monitor for consumers that transmits information like heart rates, sleep quality, blood oxygen levels and skin temperatures to a parent's smartphone or other smart devices. Data and alerts are securely transmitted to parents or caregivers via Ayla's end-to-end platform.

Maeso said consumers care more about values than prices. Ayla's platforms provide proactive services and increase customer loyalty. This is how IoT business is developing. Ayla is a company that meets customer's strict criteria for data management, security, cloud-based back-end infrastructure and services and robust wireless connectivity through strategic relationships with leading wireless chip and module vendors.

Digitimes Research: LPWAN fulfilling IoT needs

Benson Wu, a Digitimes Research analyst, said that after reviewing the world's top LTE service providers, he found that 4G services are seeing shirnking profits. And most telecoms have started to look at the benefits of connected devices enabling IoT services. The Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) is a solution for increasing business opportunities. LPWAN has rapidly gone from "not needed" to an important part of communications for the IoT industry. The building of the LPWAN infrastructure is just beginning. LPWAN is a low-cost, high-volume business. A couple of mobile operators will trial Narrow Band IoT technology alongside their launch preparation of a LoRa network. Also the coming of 5G technology will be a big boost for LPWAN solutions.

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