Ja­pan tar­gets a su­per­com­puter to leap into tech­nol­ogy fu­ture

Ma­chine will be world’s fastest-known su­per­com­puter

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

TOKYO:

Ja­pan plans to build the world’s fastest-known su­per­com­puter in a bid to arm the country’s man­u­fac­tur­ers with a plat­form for re­search that could help them de­velop and im­prove driver­less cars, ro­bot­ics and med­i­cal di­ag­nos­tics. The Min­istry of Econ­omy, Trade and In­dus­try will spend 19.5 bil­lion yen ($173 mil­lion) on the pre­vi­ously un­re­ported project, a bud­get break­down shows, as part of a gov­ern­ment pol­icy to get back Ja­pan’s mojo in the world of tech­nol­ogy. The country has lost its edge in many elec­tronic fields amid in­ten­si­fy­ing com­pe­ti­tion from South Korea and China, home to the world’s cur­rent best-per­form­ing ma­chine.

In a move that is ex­pected to vault Ja­pan to the top of the su­per­com­put­ing heap, its en­gi­neers will be tasked with build­ing a ma­chine that can make 130 quadrillion cal­cu­la­tions per sec­ond - or 130 petaflops in sci­en­tific par­lance - as early as next year, sources in­volved in the project said. At that speed, Ja­pan’s com­puter would be ahead of China’s Sun­way Tai­hu­light that is ca­pa­ble of 93 petaflops. “As far as we know, there is noth­ing out there that is as fast,” said Satoshi Sekiguchi, a di­rec­tor gen­eral at Ja­pan’s

Na­tional In­sti­tute of Ad­vanced In­dus­trial Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy, where the com­puter will be built.

The push to re­turn to the van­guard comes at a time of grow­ing nos­tal­gia for the hey­day of Ja­pan’s tech­no­log­i­cal prow­ess, which has dwin­dled since China over­took it as the world’s sec­ond-big­gest econ­omy. Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe has called for com­pa­nies, bu­reau­crats and the po­lit­i­cal class to work more closely to­gether so Ja­pan can win in ro­bot­ics, bat­ter­ies, re­new­able en­ergy and other new and grow­ing mar­kets.

Deep learn­ing

In the area of su­per­com­put­ing, Ja­pan’s aim is to use ul­tra-fast cal­cu­la­tions to accelerate ad­vances in ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence (AI), such as “deep learn­ing” tech­nol­ogy that works off al­go­rithms which mimic the hu­man brain’s neu­ral path­ways, to help com­put­ers per­form new tasks and an­a­lyze scores of data. Re­cent achieve­ments in this area have come from Google’s Deep­Mind AI pro­gram, Al­phaGo, which in March beat South Korean pro­fes­sional Lee Seedol in the an­cient board game of Go.

Ap­pli­ca­tions in­clude help­ing com­pa­nies im­prove driver­less ve­hi­cles by al­low­ing them to an­a­lyze huge troves of vis­ual traf­fic data, or it could help fac­to­ries im­prove au­to­ma­tion. China uses the Sun­way Tai­hu­light for weather fore­cast­ing, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal re­search, in­dus­trial de­sign, among other things. Ja­pan’s new su­per­com­puter could help tap med­i­cal records to de­velop new ser­vices and ap­pli­ca­tions, Sekiguchi said.

The su­per­com­puter will be made avail­able for a fee to Ja­pan’s cor­po­ra­tions, who now out­source data crunch­ing to for­eign firms such as Google and Mi­crosoft, Sekiguchi and oth­ers in­volved in the project said. The new com­puter has been dubbed ABCI, an acro­nym for AI Bridg­ing Cloud In­fra­struc­ture. Bid­ding for the project has be­gun and will close on Dec 8. Fu­jitsu Ltd, the builder of the fastest Ja­panese su­per­com­puter to date the Oak­for­est-PACS, ca­pa­ble of 13.6 petaflops, de­clined to say if it would bid for the project. The com­pany has, how­ever, said it is keen to be in­volved in su­per­com­puter devel­op­ment. — Reuters

WASH­ING­TON: A man types on a com­puter keyboard in this photo il­lus­tra­tion taken in Wash­ing­ton. — AFP

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