Sramana Mitra: It is part of your chips, but it has to be controlled somehow. What is the control point?
Rahul Patel: We bring all those control points to the APIs, and then the application developer decides how they want to control it. Setting up the turning on and off time for radios, for example, or the trigger that would turn on the radio is a component inside of the chip. If there is an eyelid movement sensed by the camera, for example, the application would make an assumption that somebody is looking at the screen. As a result, they turn on the radio, they get the needed data and display it. Those are some of the things made available through the API layer.
There are other things that are standard settings, for example transmitting and alerting. Should there be a temperature trigger – if the body temperature goes above a certain level – it automatically turns on the radio and sends a message to somebody on a phone or the cloud that ultimately triggers other events. So there are event-based triggers set up in these products. For example, when your heart rate goes above a certain point, it could be dangerous. At that point the trigger would turn on, and you would have a notification that this is something you have to be mindful of. The trigger could be sent to the phone or the cloud depending on where the application directs it.
So, there are all those things that are being built on top of the API that we provide to the application developer. There are other things from a connectivity point of view that also are in these products. Near field communication (NFC) is a big thing because when you walk up to a portable display device and you want certain information to be securely transmitted, you won’t pair the devices before you transfer the device information. A lot of times it is personal information, and you want it to be secured. NFC helps us to pair very fast. There are things you would capture with your phone or your watch. When you are in a park and you capture something with your watch, you want to bring it home and share it on a bigger screen. There are other things like Wi-Fi direct, which allows your Wi-Fi radio transmit directly to a screen, so you can enjoy your pictures on a larger screen. There can be files or pictures that you move from your watch directly, because the space is limited there, rather than bringing them on to a hard drive or to the cloud.
With Broadcom we have Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC technologies all included in a single product. We call it Quad Combo. In fact, it has four radios: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, and FM. They are all the same technological implementations but in a different form. They are available in phones, tablets, and wearable devices.
SM: What is the price point of that component?
RP: It depends on how we implement it. It varies from application to application. It also varies based on what kind of processing engine we use in the chip. It varies from the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology used. Today Wi-Fi varies from being high-end, [the] 11ac, to low-end, [the] 11N 2.4 gigahertz. So the price point varies. You can get the chip to as high as $5 to $6 and to as low as $3. The functionality would also vary. That is just the chip. You need to put some other technology around it, like the power amplification circuit or memory. Those are all things you have to take into consideration and that depend on the end application.
SM: On the software side we have seen a lot of platform ecosystems developing very well. Large and even some small companies have developed very successful platforms. What is your platform ecosystem?
RP: We are a chip developer and a chip solution company. We absolutely do not compete with the likes of Google or Apple. What we do is provide our solutions, upon which the likes of Google or Apple develops products. Apple is a system that is a lot more closed. They have their own iOS-based ecosystem that is not open source or easily available. But Google is driving Android, which is a largely open system. Broadcom has developed the right software stacks for Bluetooth and NFC. They are part of the Google Andorid stack. The community that works on top of Android would more likely end up using the Broadcom software that ultimately ties into the Broadcom chip space. It is not us owning the platform, it is Google. But we are work closely with Google to build our platform for wireless connectivity.