Qualcomm announces software business around its supply chain chips

Qualcomm sign shown in San Diego
A Qualcomm sign is shown outside one of the company's many buildings in San Diego, California, U.S., September 17, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Feb 21 (Reuters) - Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O) on Tuesday said it is launching a paid cloud software service to help companies that use its chips keep tabs on goods as they move through the supply chain.

The San Diego, California company is the world's biggest provider of chips that help smartphones connect to mobile data networks. But Qualcomm has used its wireless communication specialty to enter other markets where devices need to talk to the internet, such as automobiles and factories.

Qualcomm Aware, as the new service is called, works with Qualcomm chips that go into tracking devices for shipping containers, pallets, packages and other parts of supply chains to help companies track where their goods and materials are.

Most of those trackers are made by third parties, but Qualcomm makes a few devices of its own, such as a tilt sensor that can be attached to utility poles to report whether they have toppled over during storms.

Qualcomm has already shipped hundreds of millions of the chips involved, which typically cost less than $10 each, Jeff Torrance, senior vice president and general manager of Qualcomm's smart connected systems business, told Reuters in an interview.

The software service announced Tuesday aims to let Qualcomm customers program their chips from one central spot, with updates sent to the chips over the air.

The service also aims to make better use of the data from the chips.

Torrance said Qualcomm's software will connect to other cloud-based such as Microsoft Corp's (MSFT.O) Dynamics 365 service, which corporations use to keep tabs on their inventory and supplies.

Companies could use the two systems to build things like virtual dashboards that show where all of a firm's inventory is at a given moment.

Qualcomm did not publicly announce pricing for the new service, but it represents a push to make more money off its chips by charging when the chip is sold then for cloud-based services using the chip afterward.

"We believe there's value in the chip and in the cloud service," Torrance told Reuters.

Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco Editing by Marguerita Choy

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