Connected cameras will get smarter with new Qualcomm chips

New chips and software will let cameras instead of the cloud do some analytics

While most of IT is consolidating around the cloud, in some ways the internet of things is moving the other direction. Vendors are putting more computing power in devices near the edges of networks, like sensor modules and gateways.

That's because it can be faster and less expensive to do filtering and analytics where the data is collected than to send it all the way to a distant data center. In some cases, this can reduce communications costs and help IoT respond to events more quickly.

Connected cameras are among the hardest-working IoT devices, sometimes streaming high-definition video around the clock for surveillance and streaming entertainment. They’re the target of chip and software enhancements that Qualcomm is introducing on Tuesday. The company is announcing these offerings along with other advances at its 4G/5G Summit in Hong Kong.

At the heart of the new connected-camera push is a new processor, the Snapdragon 625, that boasts 25 percent lower power consumption than earlier chipsets. It has the imaging muscle to capture 24-megapixel images and 4K video at 30 frames per second, but also the capability for deep learning, Qualcomm says. The chip also gets a reference design to help manufacturers get products on sale more quickly. It expects the design to reach some makers by the end of this year, with cameras based on it to hitting the market soon after.

Along with the Snapdragon 625, Qualcomm is rolling out a video analytics API (application programming interface) and an SDK (software development kit). They bring image processing and analytics software capabilities including voice activation, face detection and recognition and object tracking to the camera itself.

These kinds of features can make cameras smarter about what to record so there’s less content to store, transmit across a network or sift through later. A surveillance system may be less expensive to operate if the camera can tell what events are worth watching and only turns itself on when it detects something interesting.

Qualcomm is also adding Linux support to its connected-camera lineup, on top of Android, which is already there. This will give product developers a broader software ecosystem and more security options.

At the same event Tuesday, the company is updating three of its mobile chip lines for higher network connections and other capabilities.

All the new chips get a new LTE modem that can go as fast as 300Mbps (bits per second) for downloads and 150Mbps for uploads where networks support those speeds. They also get support for dual-camera systems like the one in the iPhone 7 Plus and Huawei P9 that improve image quality. Qualcomm already had dual-camera support in its Snapdragon 800 series.

Beyond that, the new, high-end Snapdragon 653 boosts performance over its predecessor, the 652, and can have as much as 8GB of RAM. The Snapdragon 626 and 427 get higher performance than their predecessors and add TruSignal, an antenna boosting technology to improve reception in congested areas.

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