Chip­ping in the fu­ture on ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - HK | BUSINESS -

Editor’s note: A Shen­zhen tech startup has cashed in on the Al­phaGo success stor y by pen­e­trat­ing the bur­geon­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence hard­ware mar­ket with a chip aimed at the ‘Achilles heel in cloud com­put­ing’. ad­vanced al­go­rithm, but CPU and GPU — the two types of pro­ces­sors we’re us­ing now — have great lim­i­ta­tions in the in­dus­trial ap­pli­ca­tion of AI, said Chen.

His team’s aim is to bring the tech­nol­ogy from lab to life by in­vent­ing a new pro­ces­sor chip IPU (in­tel­li­gent pro­cess­ing unit) that can con­nect AI al­go­rithm in the cloud with hard­ware prod­ucts on hand.

The new chip’s low cost and ef­fi­ciency will make it pos­si­ble for scal­able AI prod­ucts and ser­vices, Chen said.

It is also the strate­gic di­rec­tion of some of the world’s lead­ing chip de­vel­op­ers, in­clud­ing In­tel — one of the largest global chip man­u­fac­tur­ers — and in­ter­net gi­ant Google.

The mar­ket for AI hard­ware prod­ucts is bur­geon­ing. Global re­searcher IDC has pro­jected a com­pound an­nual growth rate of 60 per­cent for AI hard­war­ere­lated revenue over the next five years.

“In­ter­net of things is evolv­ing from ‘con­nect­ing ev­ery­thing’ to ‘mak­ing things in­tel- ligent’,” Hu Yali, an an­a­lyst at CITIC Se­cu­ri­ties Re­search Cen­ter, said in a re­port.

She noted that the up­grad­ing will en­able smart watches, re­frig­er­a­tors, cups and other hard­ware not only to link up and up­load data onto the in­ter­net, it can also an­a­lyze and re­spond to data it­self.

In­tel­liFu­sion foc uses on vis­ual in­for­ma­tion pro­cess­ing which, in Chen’s words, is the “Achilles’ heel of cloud com­put­ing” be­cause its quan­tity is huge and its con­tent is ir­reg­u­lar. The so­lu­tion he and his team pro­posed is to sep­a­rate part of big data anal­y­sis from cloud to ter­mi­nal. Tak­ing fa­cial recog­ni­tion as an ex­am­ple, chips in cam­eras can pre-process video data, de­tect and ex­tract tar­geted fa­cial char­ac­ter­is­tics, and trans­late them into ar­rays of bi­nary data, which will be up­loaded to the cloud for fi­nal pro­cess­ing. The method can lower the de­mand for net­work band­width, the cost of cloud pro­cess­ing and, more im­por­tantly, pro­tect pri­vacy as we can store only char­ac­ter­is­tic ar­rays in the cloud, in­stead of videos and im­ages, said Chen. Data pri­vacy pro­tec­tion is one of the tough­est chal­lenges, warned Zhang Zhuo, di­rec­tor of big data and AI at IDC China, adding that it can se­ri­ously dam­age a com­pany’s value and brand. He said there’s an ur­gent need for reg­u­la­tions and leg­is­la­tion, sug­gest­ing that AI tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies es­tab­lish an eco-sys­tem with ter­mi­nal de­vices and other re­lated com­pa­nies to pro­tect users’ per­sonal in­for­ma­tion.

The startup de­signed its first vis­ual in­tel­li­gence sys­tem “Deep­Eye” last year and ap­plied it to the city’s pub­lic se­cu­rity sys­tem, al­low­ing it to lo­cate a sus­pect among a mil­lion peo­ple in just one sec­ond, based on deep learn­ing, in­te­grated cir­cuits and big data tech­nolo­gies.

Build­ing up a se­cu­rity sys­tem is one of the most im­por­tant trends in AI hard­ware devel­op­ment. Be­sides fixed cam­eras, it can in­te­grate with wear­able de­vices for pa­trol­men and send out an au­to­matic alarm, said Zhang.

In­tel­liFu­sion is ex­pected to release Deep­Eye II and tape out an in­no­va­tively ar­chi­tec­tured pro­ces­sor chip IPU next year, which could be ap­plied in more AI prod­ucts, such as ro­bots, drones and in­tel­li­gent man­u­fac­tur­ing equip­ment.

Ro­bots will not only see the world, but also un­der­stand it, said Chen, a pro­ces­sor de­sign ex­pert with 10 years’ over­seas work­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in ZTE USA and Freescale Semi­con­duc­tor Ltd.

An­other co­founder of In­tel­liFu­sion, Tian Di­hong, spe­cial­izes in vis­ual com­put­ing and had led tech teams at Sam­sung and Cisco.

The two en­trepreneurs had worked to­gether at the Cen­ter for Sig­nal and Im­age Pro­cess­ing, Ge­or­gia In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, 15 years ago.

They re­turned to Shen­zhen in 2014 and got the startup off the ground af­ter hav­ing se­cured hundreds of mil­lions of yuan in capital sup­port from var­i­ous in­vestors, such as the Chi­nese main­land’s top seed fund Zhen Fund.

(Our) team’s aim is to bring the tech­nol­ogy from lab to life by in­vent­ing a new pro­ces­sor chip IPU (in­tel­li­gent pro­cess­ing unit) that can con­nect AI al­go­rithm in the cloud with hard­ware prod­ucts on hand.”

Chen Ning, co-founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of In­tel­liFu­sion Tech­nolo­gies Co Ltd

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