At COMPUTEX 2016, Qualcomm announced a new Wi-Fi SoC platform for the IoT—QCA4012, which is an extension of the company’s flagship QCA401x solution. The chip features dual band Wi-Fi using 5 GHz band, hostless architecture, multiple levels of security, and wide range of peripherals. Also announced were support for HomeKit, Google Weave and AllJoyn as well as cloud service providers for the QCA401x software ecosystem.
Pankaj Aggarwal, senior director of product management at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., explained that 5 GHz is used because the 2.4 GHz band in the home is already congested with 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee and other proprietary technologies, so 5 GHz is needed for reliable communication within the home.
“We already enabled 5 GHz for other devices inside home, be it your router, mobile device, PC, STB, gaming, or cameras. Now we’re enabling 5 GHz also on the smart things—the appliances, home automation and lighting market,” said Aggarwal.
He pointed out that smart home applications are broadly classified into two categories—media-hungry devices and home automation devices, and this chip is specially designed for the latter. According to Aggarwal, media-hungry devices are for example smart TV, STB, gaming devices and cameras, whereas home automation devices are for example thermostats, smoke sensors, window detectors, and appliances like oven, refrigerator, A/C, rice cooker, weight scale and lighting.
This SoC solution is said to reduce the total size and cost of IoT applications. He explained that the solution’s hostless architecture allows both MCU and Wi-Fi to be supported in a single chip, and a full featured MCU running at 130 MHz is provided. The chip also has an on-chip memory of 1.5 MB RAM to give 800 KB of memory even after having the Wi-Fi driver, full TCP/IP protocol and app-level framework. Furthermore, with a wide range of peripherals, the chip can directly connect to sensors, actuators, lighting, and display, so that no additional chips are required.
Multiple levels of security is one of the major highlights for QCA4012—it has features such as secure boot, anti-rollback, OTP memory and on-chip crypto engine for application-level security.
“We understand that IoT space needs multiple years of life of the solutions. This is why we designed this product with multiple levels of security. One of the security features is anti-rollback, so if you have a hack identified with the previous software, you get a software upgrade, and you cannot hack it anymore because you cannot go back to the previous software,” said Aggarwal.
With support for three major frameworks, Qualcomm expects to bring greater interoperability for the home.
“We were the first ones to actually introduce AllJoyn that was the first open source framework. Having the capability of the software frameworks really takes care of interoperability. With the support of all the three major frameworks, customers don’t have to worry about security, how to get to the network and how to control the devices,” said Aggarwal.
To provide an end-to-end solution, the company has partnered with Ayla Networks, Exosite, and Iota Labs so that customers can get a complete solution. According to Aggarwal, with the complete solution, users can not only easily get to the network but also get the cloud access as well as have a faster development cycle and time to market.
When asked why Qualcomm chose these partners, Aggarwal expressed that the company’s position is to enable as many as possible, but choosing these three allowed for faster development cycle. “We will open up for more partners to support the cloud services. As we have done in the previous solution, if you look at the QCA4004, we have so many partners supporting us, so we’ll do the same here.”