The Relentless Behind the Progress of AI Chips into Your Phone

Artificial Intelligence

Introducing a new concept – AI chips which sit inside your mobile

An increasing proportion of the jobs we want done for us by our phones, use Artificial Intelligence (AI) software to perform them. AI is a term we find around us constantly. While most of us are concerned about the arrival of intelligent robots, especially those which may take our jobs, AI creeps further and faster by the week.

Putting moral concerns over the some of the more negative possibilities aside, mobile phone manufacturers around the world, including the usual suspects, Apple and Google, are quietly implanting AI chips right under our noses.

Why do we need AI in our phones?

The efficiencies offered by processors more appropriately designed for the AI tasks we're talking about in these devices are incredible. If we weren't so used to hearing amazing technology announcements every day, the sort of improvements AI chips offer would blow our minds. Simple image quality improvement, for example, for use in a phone's camera will be enormously improved. Eliminating 'noise' from a digital picture, as an east to understand example, can be done 5 times as fast with 10% of the energy used in a standard processor doing the same job. When you think you've taken a great snap and show your friend your phone's screen, half of it was done by the AI chip inside! The benefits to the user don't end there. When they are done on the phone, there is no 'lag' involved in uploading / downloading the image from the cloud.

In summary, AI chips will help with any 'non linear' calculations the phone undertakes, from improved search to upgraded voice assistants. So many of the best inventions of recent times have come from small efficiencies in how we use assets. AirBNB is worth billions and simply utilized spare bedrooms and property. Uber better utilized cars which were stuck in the garage for too long. Now your phone will more efficiently conduct the speech recognition, image filtering and other pattern matching activities you require of it – without burning either your battery or cellular data plan, transporting the information to the cloud so it can be worked on there.

AI chips

Timeline of recent phone releases – with AI chipsets

A who's who of phone companies have included AI chips in their phones since the start of 2017. And now even major chip manufacturers are getting in on the act.

  • iPhone X: The 2017 iPhone was the most expensive iPhone ever released. At least part of the cost came down to the new 'neural' chip that was built in to the product.
  • Huawei Mate 10 & Huawei Kirin 970: Huawei are one of China's biggest and fastest growing companies. They've released two devices in the last 12 months which have advertised their Neural processors – AI processors.
  • Google Pixel 2: It's no surprise to find Google lurking where there is AI. The entire company shifted its strategy and internal focus to 'AI first' a couple of years ago, seeing the opportunity (in fact, they were also ahead of the curve with their previous strategy mobile first). The Pixel 2, while it has had its critics, had impressive image processing capabilities and endless digital picture storage as the features they marketed. No surprise then that the device was one of the first to include an AI chip, on board.
  • The new Samsung Galaxy S9: Samsung, now the world's biggest phone processor manufacturer will not use an AI based chip to improve their voice assistant, Bixby, which was included for the first time last year, in the Galaxy S9.
  • ARM: The makers of the processor in your phone announced in February 2018 that they too had developed a microprocessor which can efficiently conduct AI activities on a phone.

Bringing it all together

Tech companies are clever. They develop ecosystems around their products to make them more valuable. Consider iTunes from Apple. It does two things for them at once. First, ecosystems stimulate innovation at a scale that even huge technology giants with a reputation for clever thinking, like Apple, couldn't match on their own. Second, they create a 'world' of tools which support and reinforce their own products. Part of the reason people find it so hard to leave Apple, for example, is the millions of apps they can find in the app store, many of which only work on iPhone devices. This new breed of AI chip will likely also be offered as the basis for developers and app manufacturers around the world.

The truth is that the companies producing this new epoch of smarter processing chips may likely, themselves not know the full extent to which they will be used in the future. With the Internet of Things coming, there is going to be a lot more data to crunch. It's far from unimaginable that we could all (or rather our smartphones could) be 'used' while we sleep to cooperate on solving AI based problems.

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This is a guest post by Kathleen Riley.

The opinions expressed by guest contributors are their own, not those of anadea.info.

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