Qualcomm's Rob Chandhok E'84 and Dr. Stuart Evans Hold Fireside Chat on Innovation-Silicon Valley Campus - Carnegie Mellon University

Monday, July 29, 2013

Qualcomm's Rob Chandhok E'84 and Dr. Stuart Evans Hold Fireside Chat on Innovation

Carnegie Mellon University alumnus Rob Chandhok (E'84) and CMU Distinguished Service Professor Dr. Stuart Evans' July 18 conversation filled not only the University's Silicon Valley campus (CMU-SV), but also a virtual space with alumni attendees from countries around the world. Chandhok earned a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Applied Mathematics at CMU (Class of 1984). Working for over 10 years as a research computer scientist at CMU's School of Computer Science, he published widely in the fields of programming systems and computer supported collaboration.

Chandhok is currently President of the Qualcomm Innovation Center and Senior VP of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. (QTI). In front of a full house at CMU-SV’s Moffett Field campus, he first discussed his career and his experiences as an entrepreneur and senior corporate executive. He and Evans went on to discuss a major innovation initiative on the "Internet of Things." 

"We are on a precipice of something huge," Evans said, "especially with respect to the innovations at Qualcomm on the internet of 'close-by things.'"

Prof. Stuart Evans, CMU alumnus Rob Chandhok, CMU-SV alumnus Krishna Mohan Bheemanadham

CMU-SV graduate student Nathan Martin elaborated, saying, "everyday objects are embedding more and more sensors. Now we are connecting them to the internet to get that data; that is the Internet of Things."

At Qualcomm, Chandhok is immersed daily in the Internet of Things, through his work with the AllJoyn, a new peer-to-peer protocol system he pioneered. AllJoyn technology drives both innovation and development strategies for QTI's mobile software technologies. "We want to make sure the technology we build is very dynamic," Chandhok said. However, the market today is still very segmented; Chandhok says, "We had these ivory towers that don't talk to each other." Given his extensive and successful startup experience, Chandhok was eager to point out that he was actively creating an “ecosystem” around the technology, with university playing an important role.

Chandhok cites one of Apple's strategies as a successful innovator. "What Apple did for developers is provide one set of APIs that are going to work over a broad set of devices," he explained. "We are trying to answer the question, ‘What is the HTTP of the Internet of Things?' It is not HTTP." He envisions a day when all devices can communicate directly amongst themselves. "We can build, for example, a projector with a protocol that can let you walk up to it and ask, ‘What can I do to you?'"

CMU alumnus Rob Chandhok with CMU-SV Director Martin Griss
Rob Chandhok with CMU-SV Campus Director Martin Griss

Evans adds that recent developments in mobile technology have changed the innovation landscape. "Since the iPhone came out, the time table for R&D efforts has shifted from four or five years [of development] to just six months," he says. "You have this disconnect where you want to plan everything out with a P&L and project plans, but you don't have enough time to market." Chandhok's executive leadership skills were highly visible in his explanation of how certain aspects of the "viral" adoption of AllJoyn might be induced, whereas others had to evolve naturally from the superior technology and ease-of-incorporation into everyday devices.

Questions from the audience flowed for 45 minutes, and the discussion continued informally after the event. There were several executives from Qualcomm Santa Clara in attendance, most notably CMU-SV alum Zoltan Biacs (E’12) with his colleague Dr. Cormac Conroy, VP of Engineering.

The goal of hosting fireside chats is to give alumni and other CMU community members a "ringside seat" to innovation and entrepreneurial activities in Silicon Valley. Evans states, "A CMU education and the CMU experiences are highly relevant for today's industrial world." 

The extensive involvement of CMU alumni is due to the efforts of Krishna Mohan Bheemanadham, CMU-SV alumnus and co-president of the Bay Area Alumni Chapter. CMU-SV extends our thanks to Krishna.

Article photographed and written by CMU-SV Software Management student Dan Fortner