Qualcomm makes big IoT gateway play with huge stadium project

Qualcomm has made a big play for the IoT gateway market this week, announcing the results of a pilot program in Major League Baseball’s San Diego Padres’ stadium, in partnership with OSIsoft – which is providing the data management software, as part of a national contract with the MLB. Thanks to the system, the Padres are predicting a 25% saving in their operating costs.

The move sees an as-yet unannounced gateway device hooked up to the power and water systems inside Petco Park, with the gateways bringing edge-processing and real-time data streaming to the OSIsoft PI System – which allows the Padres to visualize and manage the stadium’s systems, typically running in on-premises hardware with an option for later cloud connections for remote management.

The market for ruggedized IoT gateways, the devices that collect and then backhaul the data from sensors at the network edge, is growing quickly – but comprised of lots of smaller players. Perhaps the biggest, in terms of enterprise presence at least, is Cisco, although Dell has also recently launched its Edge Gateway series, and smaller offerings from the likes of Netcomm Wireless, Eurotech and Advantech.

But with this move, Qualcomm is bringing its gargantuan smartphone presence into this market, hoping to push its Snapdragon SoCs firmly into the market for those looking to bundle a rich I/O offering with the processing power needed to sort and backhaul data generated by edge devices.

Annoyingly, Qualcom has been very vague on the actual products and protocols it has been using in the project. On the announcement call, we did manage to find out that the system is currently based around a 400-Series Snapdragon, but the Qualcomm reps avoided going into further details about the hardware. We couldn’t even get a direct clarification of what communication protocols were being used, aside from a blend of wired and wireless.

But we were told to expect an announcement regarding a family of such processors and devices soon. Based on the answers, Qualcomm isn’t looking to actually build the gateways itself, but rather offer the silicon component that will form the heart of the offering for other manufacturers to adopt.

Intel will be wary of such an announcement, given its attempts to carve out a slice of the gateway chip market, but there is a wealth of ARM-based rivals that Qualcomm is muscling in on here.

As for the roll-out, Qualcomm said that it was pretty straightforward. The company carried out internal tests on one of its campuses, with “a broad range of communication methods,” and then essentially plugged the finished article into the Padres’ stadium – without having to install new machinery.

This approach is going to be key for industrial and facility adoption, as the estates managers are not going to be happy with a system that requires lots of downtime or new equipment. Retrofit solutions will be king in this market, not rip and replace, and Qualcomm and OSIsoft note adapting and digitizing a facility is a far easier solution than gutting and rebuilding.

There are many large buildings that would benefit from the improved efficiency that this sort of solution can provide, and targeting businesses that are conscious of their opex is going to be a strong route to market for those in the market of selling gateways – with Qualcomm hoping to provide the required chips.

“The foundation of the smart city is data, and we are very proud to work with Qualcomm Intelligent Solutions to help the Padres lower costs, drive sustainability, and engage the community,” said Martin Otterson, SVP of sales, marketing and industry at OSIsoft. “The Padres’ accomplishments will also provide a guide for others. There are approximately 12,000 stadiums in the world, and many are in regions and cities mapping our plans to use energy and water in smarter ways.”

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