In­tel­li­gent de­sign

The largest maker of tele­coms equip­ment has am­bi­tions in the en­ter­prise and cloud spa­ces, un­veil­ing Ai-in­fused pro­ces­sors

Financial Mail - - ENTREPRENEUR - Toby Shap­shak

Chi­nese Tele­coms giant Huawei has shown its in­ten­tions in the wider tech­nol­ogy in­dus­try by un­veil­ing its own pro­ces­sors with ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence (AI) tech­nol­ogy built in, as it seeks to ex­pand its cloud and en­ter­prise busi­nesses.

At the Huawei Con­nect con­fer­ence in Shang­hai this month, ro­tat­ing chair Eric Xu showed off the com­pany’s two new As­cend AI chips and pre­dicted that “AI will change all in­dus­tries”.

Huawei an­nounced a “full stack port­fo­lio” of chips and ser­vices, which will op­er­ate in data cen­tres (the As­cend 910 chip, which Huawei says “has the world’s great­est com­put­ing den­sity in a sin­gle chip”) and an up­grade to its Kirin 970 AI chip for smart­phones. This was used in last year’s Mate 10, the first mo­bile to have AI built in, it claimed at the time. The up­graded Kirin 980 is the brains in its Mate 20 flag­ship de­vice, launched in Lon­don last week. Xu said: “AI will change jobs and skills in a way that is quite dif­fer­ent from the pre­vi­ous rev­o­lu­tions.”

While these rev­o­lu­tions cre­ated a de­mand for repet­i­tive rou­tine tasks (work­ing in fac­to­ries or in sup­ply chains and on assem­bly lines), he be­lieves AI will “greatly boost au­to­ma­tion in al­most all as­pects of an or­gan­i­sa­tion”.

With less de­mand for repet­i­tive, rou­tine task-ori­ented jobs, he ex­pects a rise in data science em­ploy­ment — but these will still be fewer than the au­to­ma­tion jobs they will re­place.

“We need to think of new ways to pre­pare our busi­nesses and in­dus­tries for change,” Xu said. “Ev­ery one of us needs to ask our­selves, how will AI re­shape or even dis­rupt the in­dus­try I’m work­ing in?”

To date AI has had a luke­warm re­cep­tion, he said, with only 4% of en­ter­prises hav­ing in­vested in or de­ployed AI. But a sign of rapid change was that in 2017 more than 22 coun­tries an­nounced a na­tional AI plan, there was $24bn in Aire­lated merg­ers and ac­qui­si­tions, and $14bn in ven­ture cap­i­tal in­vest­ments in AI.

These new pro­ces­sors come against the back­drop of an es­ca­lat­ing trade war be­tween US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and China, as well as bans on Chi­nese tech firms. Ear­lier this year Huawei was black­listed from the US by lawen­force­ment agen­cies just days be­fore it was due to an­nounce deals to sell its smart­phones and other tele­coms hard­ware. An­other tele­coms maker, ZTE, was banned for sell­ing prod­ucts to Iran.

The Chi­nese govern­ment is push­ing for Chi­nese-made pro­ces­sors to be used in 40% of smart­phones in its lo­cal mar­ket by 2025, as part of its Made in China 2025 pro­gramme. This is likely to pit Huawei and other Chi­nese tech com­pa­nies against the chip-mak­ing es­tab­lish­ment firms of In­tel, Qual­comm, AMD and Nvidia.

In the sec­ond quar­ter Huawei over­took Ap­ple for the first time to be­come the world’s sec­ond-largest smart­phone ven­dor.

Its high-end smart­phones have topped Stuff mag­a­zine’s cam­era tests since the P20 Pro was launched ear­lier this year.

An­a­lysts at last week’s con­fer­ence were im­pressed by Huawei’s new of­fer­ings.

“Huawei has cre­ated a hard­ware so­lu­tion that has AI built di­rectly into the op­er­at­ing sys­tem, so it is truly AI at the hard­ware level,” Craig Brown, chief in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer of En­ter­prise In­te­gra­tion, tells the FM.

“What you have with Ai-in­fused tech­nol­ogy is hard­ware that can process the data in real time, gain in­sights in real time and al­low for de­ci­sions to be made in real time.”

But, he warns, this is just a ca­pa­bil­ity. “These in­sights and de­ci­sions are only as good as the data. Right now en­ter­prise’s strug-

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