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Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855 releases with enhanced AI and 3D biometrics

At the Qualcomm Snapdragon Tech Summit in Maui, Hawaii, the US chip giant announced the Snapdragon 855 mobile platform, designed to "connect the world with 4G and 5G". This Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855 system includes the Qualcomm Snapdragon X50 5G modem that supports both sub-6 GHz and mmWave frequency, while a built-in Snapdragon X24 LTE modem enables 90 percent of carriers to achieve multi-gigabit LTE.


The tech giant announced that Android device vendors would begin shipping devices with the 5G-supportive Snapdragon 855 system-on-a-chip (SoC), and at the same time, partner carriers ranging from SingTel to AT&T and China Mobile would be establishing testbeds worldwide for 5G deployment for both sub-6 GHz and mmWave systems.


OnePlus has been confirmed as the first firm to offer United Kingdom 5G-ready smartphones via a partnership with EE.


The SoC also includes an integrated Wi-Fi 6-ready mobile solution, improving power efficiency as well as WPA3 compatibility for enhanced security. The system also introduces 802.11ay-based Wi-Fi technologies, capable of managing speeds of up to 10 Gbps.


At the conference, Durga Malladi, Qualcomm's senior VP of engineering said that these enhancements open up the latest Snapdragon chip to a "range of commercial applications."


The reference design, makes use of Qualcomm's X50 modem and QTM052 antenna modules. Companies including Google, HTC, Samsung, LG, and Motorola are all working with Qualcomm on the hardware aspects of 5G technology.


The executive of the board added that the hardware had been designed for maximum compatibility with carriers as part of the global 5G push. The multi-gigabit SoC utilizes the company's fourth-generation artificial intelligence (AI) engine, which Qualcomm says offers a 2x performance boost in comparison to competing alternatives currently in the market and a 3x performance enhancement in comparison to its predecessors.



The AI engine will be used for everything from enhanced camera features -- including object detection and depth perception -- to augmented reality (AR) applications.


The latest invention in the Snapdragon lineup will also feature the Computer Vision (CV) ISP for improved photography and video capture, which moves image processing to hardware for both a speed boost and reduction in CV power requirements.


Katouzian said that the imaging processor is the "world's first computer-vision ISP," which can recognize "who and what you are capturing."


Qualcomm's continued efforts to improve mobile photography is no surprise, as the 855's predecessor, the Snapdragon 845 -- announced almost a year ago to the day -- focused on this smartphone use case as a priority.


The engine is able to support the Tensorflow Lite, Google's Neural Networks API, and Qualcomm's neural processing SDK. The Qualcomm Math libraries, Open CL, and Hexagon NN libraries are compatible with the engine, which the tech giant says is able to manage over seven trillion operations per second.


Qualcomm didn't go into too many details about the chip but did reveal that the 855 will include 3D Sonic Sensor, an ultrasonic sensor, that makes it easier for phone makers to integrate fingerprint sensors under a phone's screen, improvements to gaming performance through a program it calls Elite Gaming, and improved AI integration for photography.

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