Chip maker Qualcomm sees a huge opportunity in the IoT market. Its own research says that 5 billion non-smartphone connected devices will ship by 2018.

The company said so during its “Internet of Everything” press event in San Francisco Wednesday.

Qualcomm president Derek Aberle, SVP of product management Raj Talluri, and other executives were here to talk about the company’s plans for the emerging Internet of things (IoT) market. Qualcomm hopes to put tiny low-power chips in a galaxy of end-point devices in homes, cars, health care facilities, smart cities, and wearable devices.

He added that Qualcomm is already selling chips to automotive OEMs, and has sold 120 million smart home solutions in the past year.

“If the devices are smarter, much more of the computing can be done at the device instead of up in the cloud,” Aberle said.

The IoT topology so far has been mainly a hub-and-spoke approach, with many end-point devices storing a certain amount of data, but reporting much of the data they gather to the cloud (the hub).

Qualcomm said it is thinking about ways to have the end points talk to each other in a mesh network, which could make communications faster and more power-efficient. It’s already working on making the end points more powerful, both in terms of their awareness of the things around them and in their ability to use deep learning to understand context.

Of course, in Aberle’s vision, it will be Qualcomm’s chips that will enable this kind of awareness and intelligence.

Aberle says the IoT business opportunity could be anywhere from $1 billion to $19 billion, depending on which analyst group you believe. Whatever the exact number, it’s a market size that has many companies — including Intel, Samsung, and Broadcom — scrambling to get a product and service strategy in place.

Aberle said that while many companies are just now “putting out press releases” about their IoT offerings, Qualcomm has been in-market for a long time.

“We’ve had more than a billion dollars of revenues from the chip business related to the Internet of things,” Aberle said.

Updated with correction 5/14 12pm PST: An earlier version of this story stated that Qualcomm’s Aberle claimed his company would sell 5 billion IoT chips by 2018. Qualcomm points out that the 5 billion number is its own estimate of the total market size, not Qualcomm chip sales.


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