In the months since I attended the Smart Cities event organized by Qualcomm and CommNexus in San Diego, the buzz about “Smart Cities” and the use of machine-to-machine (M2M) wireless technologies has only grown louder and more intense. Which Smart City-relevant innovations are under development inside Qualcomm?
Known primarily for mobile chipset technologies, Qualcomm is working to optimize wireless networks and sensors that support M2M solutions and, ultimately, Smart Cities of the future. An often-overlooked part of this initiative is the company’s work in preparing the wireless industry for the imminent tsunami of data that will come when countless “things” equipped with M2M wireless sensors—part of the “Internet of Everything”—hit wireless networks. Qualcomm calls it the 1000x Challenge, referring to wireless industry predictions about a 1000x increase in mobile data usage between 2010 and 2020.
Last month, Qualcomm Executive Vice President and CTO Matt Grob presented at Meeting of the Minds 2012 in San Francisco. His presentation, “Next Big Innovation: The Mobile Internet Transformation—Meeting Network Capacity Needs of Cities,” showed how wireless connectivity is revolutionizing the way people live and interact with each other in cities.
A few examples of Qualcomm tech in this arena:
- From Qualcomm’s perspective, a “smarter grid“ employs digital wireless technologies that allow utility companies to safely and securely deliver prepaid electric services that save homes and businesses money through real-time monitoring of power usage over existing cell networks, thus reducing deployment costs for the utility and saving energy for the planet. At the same time, smarter grids enable customers to better manage their own energy usage.
- One recent Smart Grid example is Qualcomm’s work with Duke Energy, the largest electric power holding company in the United States. The success of this collaboration has enabled Duke Energy to install hundreds of thousands of communications nodes, which interface with electric and gas meters, line sensors, transformers, and other end points, meters, sensors, and distribution automation equipment, and optimize energy usage in five states.
- Working with ECOtality, a maker of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, Qualcomm participated in The EV Project, the largest deployment of electric vehicles and charge infrastructure in history. The project, now in nine states plus the District of Columbia, leverages cellular technology incorporated into charging stations, enabling EV car drivers to easily find charging stations with their smartphones. Moreover, the solution allows users to reserve stations as well as receive alerts users when the charge is finished or if it the charge has been interrupted.
- Another exciting development, also involving EVs, is Qualcomm Halo’s teaming with Renault and Delta Motorsport in London. Qualcomm Halo, a subsidiary of Qualcomm, produces wireless charging mats that enable EV drivers to simply drive up and park over the charging mat—no exact alignment necessary (e.g., you have to line up your electric toothbrush perfectly on the charger in order for it to charge). Initially, the benefit is no longer having to deal with tangled charging cables. But looking beyond that, Qualcomm Halo envisions embedded chargers in the roadway. Even further out is the idea that these mats could be built into the road and connected to the overall Smart Grid. Depending on the time of the day, more or less energy resources could be devoted to that specific roadway, effectively channeling energy to where it’s needed most.
I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on how M2M connections—and the Internet of Everything—can enable Smart Cities of the future.