Qualcomm wants to power the next round of smart home cameras, and it hopes to make them even more capable in the process. To do that, Qualcomm has created a reference design for new home monitoring cameras, and at the core of them is its Snapdragon 618 processor. Though that isn't one of Qualcomm's powerhouses, Qualcomm says it's a substantially more powerful processor than what's currently inside of the average home camera. It can even run two cameras at a time.
Processing can happen on the camera, rather than in the cloud
That additional power is supposed to allow these cameras to work a lot faster. Right now, Qualcomm says, a lot of cameras end up doing their processing in the cloud, which means you're transferring a ton of data and wasting time between an event and any alert it might trigger. By putting a 618 inside of a camera, the camera should be able to do all image analysis locally, meaning far less delay between when an event happens — like someone opening a door — and when you get a notification about it.
"We've done a lot of work getting cameras and computer vision optimized in the phone space," says Raj Talluri, who oversees mobile computing for Qualcomm. "Typically it's harder in the phone space — a phone has a pinhole camera and is always moving — but now we're bringing that technology into this space where the application is a little different, but the technology we built applies perfectly."
Talluri also envisions the reduced delay enabling new applications for home monitoring. "What you have is a much smarter camera," he says. "What I'd call a conscious camera of what's happening in the scene." A lot of Qualcomm's ideas — like differentiating people who live in a house from strangers — are already done in the cloud, but Talluri suggests Qualcomm's tech could go further than that, like knowing to ignore a car that passes by outside a window, all without uploading any footage.
Putting a Snapdragon 618 inside of these cameras also means that, in addition to Wi-Fi, they'll also have LTE. That may mean one more data connection to pay for, but it also means that these cameras can start to be put almost anywhere (with power) and moved around, rather than being tethered to a home network. The cameras can avoid eating up too much data, too, because on-camera processing should allow them to only stream or upload footage that's determined to include an important event.
The first cameras should arrive next year
Because Qualcomm has only made a reference design, that means it won't be making these cameras itself. Rather, other manufacturers will be able to approach Qualcomm to use and adapt its pre-made design. It expects the first home cameras powered by a Snapdragon processor to arrive in the first half of next year; and while the processor may hint at these being more expensive products, Talluri says the efficiency of buying a chip that includes so many key components should drive down costs.
In addition to its home camera reference design, Qualcomm is also introducing two modems today designed for Internet of Things devices. Their names aren't beautiful — MDM9207-1 and MDM9206 — but they're important steps by Qualcomm into the IoT world. Both are low-power LTE modems that Qualcomm imagines being placed on machines throughout a city, which could use the modem to send up data they collect or alerts about issues like a leaking pipe.
Other uses that Qualcomm identifies are with electricity and water meters. It says that instead of a utility sending someone out to read a meter every other month, the meter's modem could just turn on when it's needed and send that info up to the cloud. And because it would only need to turn on every so often, Qualcomm says it expects about 10 years of battery life from these. It also hopes these modems will be a lot more useful for IoT devices because LTE is widely supported, meaning there shouldn't be scaling issues.