Huawei’s Kirin 970 chip ushers an era of on-device artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the buzzword these days. It is already being used in many apps and devices. Apps such as Prisma, Google Photos and Gmail are using it in different ways. Android smartphones or voice-enabled smart speakers rely on AI-enabled virtual assistants to understand users and respond to queries. Microsoft is using AI to power its Defender anti-virus to identify new kinds of malware.
But most of the AI tools work over cloud. So, every communication with Google Assistant, for instance, is saved on cloud where sophisticated algorithms, also known as deep learning algorithms, running on over 16,000 computers are used to process data more thoroughly. Improvements in speech recognition and natural language generation are some of the results of deep-learning technology. However, users need internet access to take advantage of most of the AI tools.
Now phonemakers are trying to incorporate AI on the smartphone itself. Apple has been reportedly working on an AI-backed neural engine in its new generation chipsets to improve battery life and speed up speech and facial recognition.
Huawei has become the first phonemaker to officially join the “AI on device” club with the new Kirin 970 chipset, unveiled at the ongoing IFA 2017 in Berlin.
Kirin 970 is an octa-core chipset built on 10nm architecture, clocking at 2.4GHz and packs in a 12-core GPU. It will be first available on Huawei’s upcoming smartphone Mate 10, which releases in October 2017.
What sets it apart from Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 or Samsung’s Exynos 8895 chips is the built-in Neural Processing Unit (NPU).
Huawei is trying to combine the power of cloud-based AI with native AI processing baked into the smartphone’s hardware. Every smartphone comes with a bunch of sensors which produce a large amount of data in real time. The ability to process the data on the device itself using NPU without involving internet connectivity or cloud will reduce latency issues and process a lot of tasks on the device itself.
Huawei claims this will lead to 25x improvement in performance and 50x improvement in efficiency in smartphones running on Kirin 970 chipset. The Chinese company is also planning to make the NPU available to third-party developers so they can take advantage of NPU.