As we hurtle towards 2019, Qualcomm has been busy introducing the world to its latest products that are likely to drive next year's biggest trends. To be clear, there are a lot of highlights here. This is the first mobile processor to support multi-gigabit 5G, and is one of the first chips built on 7-nanometer architecture. The Snapdragon 855 also features (among other things) advances in AI processing and graphics prowess -- let's take a closer look. For all of Qualcomm's talk abut 5G, the 855 is fascinating because it mainly relies on a new, built-in X24 LTE modem, not the Snapdragon X50 5G modem we've heard so much about lately.
Qualcomm SVP Alex Katouzian didn't dwell on the chipset for very long after announcing it at the company's Tech Summit in Hawaii -- the big details will apparently drop tomorrow -- but we now have a better sense of what the company wanted to focus on as we barrel into 2019. It's been clear for a while now that 2019 will be the year of 5G, and it's little surprise at this point that the Snapdragon 855 will support "multi-gigabit" data speeds on 5G networks as they light up around the country. The rapid development and rigorous work that went into next year's round of 5G network deployments were a big theme here at Tech Summit day 1, and it's not hard to see how insanely fast data speeds stand to change what we expect from our smartphones. Beyond that, Katouzian also pointed out that the 855 was designed to trounce last-generation chipsets when it comes to AI performance -- we can expect up to 3x performance gains when it comes to these complex computations. It's still relatively early days for software and services fueled by machine learning, but the shift in the industry seems almost palpable at this point.
A new generation of smartphones is nearly upon us. Starting in 2019, Android phone makers will start shipping new devices with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855 system-on-a-chip (SoC), which'll be the first chip to support 5G. That's right, mobile 5G -- which has been mostly company promises and marketing hype up to this point -- is now a step closer to being something you can hold in your hand. SEE ALSO: The 5G iPhone probably isn't coming until 2020 In a meeting in advance of the announcement, Qualcomm Senior Vice President and General Manager of Mobile Alex Katouzian was light on specific details about how much faster the Snapdragon 855 is compared to the current Snapdragon 845. Katouzian also didn't share with me any stats on how the new chip stacks up to Apple's industry-leading A12 Bionic and A12X Bionic chips found in the iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max and new iPad Pros, respectively.
Qualcomm Ventures, the corporate venture capital arm of the chipmaker, has plans to invest up to $100 million in artificial intelligence. Specifically, Qualcomm says it will provide capital to startups building on-device AI, which is AI that runs on the end device, like a smartphone or vehicle, rather than in the cloud. The fund's leader, Qualcomm investment director Albert Wang (pictured), says on-device AI is the future. "Today's AI processing is very computationally intensive," Wang told TechCrunch. "When you're talking to Alexa, nothing is processed on your device, it gets taken to the cloud and gets scrunched there. There are a few problems with that -- performance deteriorates, it consumes a lot of bandwidth and there are privacy issues. Imagine you have an Alexa that is more private and user-friendly, you ask the questions and can get the answers instantly. It doesn't take the round trip all the way to the cloud."
So when drone manufacturer DJI in January introduced a new model, the Osmo Mobile, for the then-super-low price of $129, we were excited. But the product didn't live up to our dreams. It was large, bulky and hard to walk around with. And when connected to a mobile phone, the footage had its moments, but it was hard to get many seconds of really clean, steady footage. Cut to November and DJI is at it again, this time with a more expensive but steadier product.
Mobile phone carrier KDDI Corp. said Thursday it plans to start using drones to support rescue operations and search for missing hikers on Mount Fuji from next summer, aiming to eventually expand the service to other areas. KDDI successfully conducted a trial in conjunction with the Gotemba Municipal Government, a city to the west of the 3,776-meter-high peak; Yamap Inc., a developer of smartphone map applications; and weather information provider Weathernews Inc. During a simulated search operation carried out in late October, the drone was able to locate the position of a missing hiker who was carrying a device with global positioning capabilities, and help observe the status of the person in need of assistance. Coupled with a newly developed system that monitors and forecasts weather conditions, a drone operator selected the most suitable flight route to the location of the missing person so that rescuers could be mobilized. KDDI said it plans to add a microphone and a speaker to the drone in the future so that rescuers and hikers can communicate.
Space may be the final frontier, but it continues to pose myriad technical challenges as commercial and government-driven space investment continues. One of those challenges is developing more effective space-based communication systems for the increasing number of satellites and spacecrafts that need to interact with one another in the void. A team of researchers has developed an algorithm to enable cognitive radio functions on satellite communications systems to adapt themselves autonomously. Current space communication systems deploy radio-resource selection algorithms, but they are rudimentary and work with a pre-programmed look-up table. Furthermore, they have little flexibility regarding the various parameters for the performance goals the system needs to achieve.
Samsung and SK Telecom have developed a prototype 5G switchboard based on the standalone standard (SA), the companies have announced. SK Telecom said deployment of 5G SA will offer near two times faster data processing speed and reaction time compared to 5G NSA. The switchboard is modular in design and vendors can add accessory equipment for additional features, the telecommunications carrier said. Later, equipment with quantum security can be added for national defense agencies or financial institutes. If being used for self-driving cars, where data must flow without interruption, data high-pass filter modules can be added, the company said.