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Advances in artificial intelligence create a new Qualcomm

In a promotional video actress Michelle Yeoh walks through a bustling urban landscape at night with a smart phone in her hand as she talks to us about a coming transformation.

“Every day Qualcomm is transforming the way we work, live and communicate, pushing the limits of technologies like artificial intelligence,” she says.

It’s a dramatic statement by Qualcomm, as they try to connect the company to artificial intelligence in the mind of the market.


“Whether our technology is going into a smartphone or whether it’s going into a factory or a robot or a drone flying around Mars, our AI is a horizontal that permeates all of those device categories and applications,” said Don McGuire, Qualcomm’s chief marketing officer.

The technology Qualcomm brings to artificial intelligence is a digital platform, based on Snapdragon computer chips. Aaron Elkins is the director of the Artificial Intelligence Center based at San Diego State. He says Qualcomm’s role in AI is providing devices that can operate AI systems in the real world.

"AI is happening in our labs, with our supercomputers and our robots,” Elkins said. “But when it’s trained, and we’re past this development phase, AI needs to exist on devices that can actually run them but they don’t take a lot of power and they can handle these algorithms. So Qualcomm fits in at the edge and actually using AI.”

McGuire said actually using artificial intelligence on common devices will present some challenging questions.

“People expect when they are querying ChatGPT for instance, and the answers are coming back. Where are they coming from and where is that happening? Today it’s happening on the cloud. A data center somewhere,” McGuire said.


The problem with that, he says, is data centers don’t have the infrastructure or power to accommodate artificial intelligence as its use dramatically increases.

“So really what’s going to have to happen is AI is going to have to become hybrid, meaning a certain amount of AI and behavioral algorithms have to happen on device as well as in the cloud.”

And that, McGuire says, is where Qualcomm’s comes in. On-device artificial intelligence computing is something they’re doing effectively on their Snapdragon platforms.

He adds that locating more AI computation on a smartphone or a laptop means better privacy and greater control. He says on-device AI not only applies to smartphones and laptops but to manufacturing programs and cars.

One Qualcomm product is called a digital chassis that includes driver assist functions, falling just short of driverless car technology.

Mounted on a wall is part of a history of mobile phone technology at Qualcomm headquarters. Apr 12, 2023
Michael Damron
Mounted on a wall is part of a history of mobile phone technology at Qualcomm headquarters. April 12, 2023

“We’re not at full autonomy yet but there’s a lot of driver assistance going on in level two and level three in vehicles from $30,000 to $100,000. Things like lane assist for example; like detecting if you’re sleepy or you’re drowsy and you should pull over and get a cup of coffee. And that driver assistance is coming from our Snapdragon ride platform.”

Marketing computer chips for artificial intelligence can be a challenge, since chips are not the kind of things consumers relate to. But McGuire said Qualcomm is trying to get consumers who care about technology to become aware of Qualcomm’s digital platforms in everything from computers to cars.

“Someday as the chief marketing officer of Qualcomm I want a consumer walking into a car dealership and saying, ‘Hey, is this car powered by Snapdragon?’” he said. “That would be ideal!”