IFA 2022: Qualcomm announces Meta partnership as it stakes out connected future

Chip giant unveils plans to embed its connectivity technology – encompassing Wi-Fi 7, 5G and even satellite – within virtual and real-world environments to drive connected experiences

In the first keynote at IFA as the technology show returned after three years, Qualcomm president and CEO Cristiano Amon plotted the course the chip giant will take as it aims to establish itself as the central part of always-on connected experiences in use cases encompassing business applications, automotive and autonomous driving, and even within the growing metaverse.

Kicking off the keynote programme at the event in Berlin, Amon noted how fundamentally mobile has changed a society that was driving towards a world in which people expect everything to be connected and everything to be intelligent. These dynamics are transforming Qualcomm as it diversifies and reaches outward from its core business in essential technology for smartphones to computers, to augmented reality devices, to automobiles, to the internet of things (IoT), he said, and to the “incredible things happening” at the edge.

Amon said Qualcomm was changing as it saw that modern experiences were mobile and that was leading to change. This change would be based on the next generations of the Snapdragon chip technology, he said.

“Snapdragon will power many of the world’s leading smartphones,” Amon noted. “We think about what users really want, and how do we develop a technology that will break the boundaries of what is possible in computing in a small form factor and we do that in order to in strive to exceed user expectations.

“We expect every device to be smart, to have artificial intelligence, to be connected to the cloud 100% of the time to tap into the unlimited computing power of the cloud, and create a complete new experience that we learn to appreciate from our smartphones. And it’s really an incredible future.”

Amon predicted that technologies such as 5G would drive the significant expansion of on-device intelligence, providing a contextual understanding, with the ability to make decisions in real time as users are connected to the cloud. “We believe that on-device intelligence is going to be the real scale opportunity for artificial intelligence and will be everywhere,” he said. “And as we think about those foundations is really shaping how we think about Snapdragon, focusing on experiences.

“The reality is, we are now designing those products, thinking about the experience, not only in mobile, but how we take those experiences to other devices, taking artificial intelligence to pretty much everything. It’s not about just cameras, but also computer vision that ranges from phones all the way to autonomous cars. Snapdragon connects. Connectivity is part of every single experience today, every single application. We live in a cloud-connected era.”

And part of this connected area is the new world of hybrid work, said Amon. During the pandemic, there was massive growth of Wi-Fi technology, he said, not only in new broadband routers, but also mesh routers because people realised they needed connectivity in every single corner of their homes.

Amon invited the audience to think about the future of work with the flexibility to work from home or from anywhere. “A lot of the corporations are redesigning office space so that you can come in and you rent a conference room, and so corporations are realising that the number one interface with the network is Wi-Fi , and no longer cable,” he said.

“Wi-Fi is really the mission-critical technology working alongside 5G for work, for playing, for learning, and I’ve never seen a time of more innovation in Wi-Fi than right now. Especially when you think about what’s happening with routers, which are really becoming a hub for connectivity. They have to separate work data from entertainment data, mission-critical IoT data, and so forth. We are going to show how we are taking [the company’s existing] Wi-Fi 7 performance to the next level.”

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Amon called this next level a “game-changing” Wi-Fi 7 capability from aggregating multiple bands of spectrum to channels to deliver data speeds in excess of 5Gbps, twice as fast as Wi-Fi 6, something that the CEO said was driving an era of fibre-level speed in 5G as well as Wi-Fi.

Such step-changes in Snapdragon performance were seen as the bedrock in supporting applications such as augmented and mixed reality, which Amon said would be the next computing platform, eventually growing to be as powerful and as big as the smartphone market. Aiming to tap into the growth opportunity in this area, he announced that Qualcomm had entered into a multi-year strategic partnership with Meta to develop premium and custom experiences with custom products that will leverage Snapdragon and XR.

The companies have already worked together on virtual reality (VR) innovations for over seven years, most recently with Meta Quest 2, and the new agreement is designed to solidify their mutual commitment to deliver multiple generations of premium devices and experiences powered by custom VR platforms in the years to come.

“By partnering with Meta, we are bringing together two of the world’s metaverse leaders to revolutionise the future of computing for billions of people in the coming years,” said Amon. “Building off our joint leadership in XR, this agreement will allow our companies to deliver best-in-class devices and experiences to transform how we work, play, learn, create and connect in a fully realised metaverse.”

Meta founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a video message to the audience in Berlin: “We are working with Qualcomm Technologies on customised virtual reality chipsets – powered by Snapdragon XR platforms and technology – for our future roadmap of Quest products. As we continue to build more advanced capabilities and experiences for virtual and augmented reality, it has become more important to build specialised technologies to power our future VR headsets and other devices.

“Unlike mobile phones, building virtual reality brings novel, multi-dimensional challenges in spatial computing, cost and form factor. These chipsets will help us keep pushing virtual reality to its limits and deliver awesome experiences.”

Wrapping up, Amon predicted an “incredible future” for the company’s technology as it built mobile experiences across every device and made everything smart and connected, to help Qualcomm be more efficient, build a sustainable future and be more productive. “We are doing everything we can to change as a company and our products, putting Snapdragon at the centre of those extraordinary experiences,” he said.

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