Huawei to beat Qualcomm, Nvidia with new AI chips

Huawei to beat Qualcomm, Nvidia with new AI chips

While Huawei is betting big on making its own AI chips, with another three in the series to be launched next year, chairman Eric Xu said in a briefing yesterday that the firm does not plan to sell its chips as standalone components to its customers. "And we will make sure to bring an AI mindset and techniques into existing products and solutions to create greater value and enhance competitive strengths", he said.

Huawei, which already provides cloud services, is now offering hardware hoping to further boost its enterprise business that reportedly accounted for 9% of the company's revenues in 2017 and increased by approximately 35% year-on-year.

The four AI platforms are then Resident Voices, which has voice recognition for all citizens of Tianjin; Sensing the City, which uses image recognition across people, places, vehicles, and things "for the goal of fostering harmony for all"; Resident Care, which involves deep learning and correlation for personalised services for citizens; and Enterprise Services, which ensures services availability match their need by applying "multi-dimensional and correlation analysis to clarify the internal relationships of industries in the TEDA district".

According to Huawei, its new Ascend 910 chip is twice more powerful compared to Nvidia's v100 which is its closest competitor. Its cloud computing platform will give competition to the homegrown Alibaba, Microsoft Corp and Amazon Web Services.

Xu added the company would apply AI to massive volumes of routine business activities for better efficiency and quality in order to improve the functionality of its technology. The company is working to offer a full-stack technological portfolio to support all AI application scenarios. The portfolio will also include an AI acceleration card, AI server, AI appliance, and many other products, Xu said.

The full-stack portfolio also includes tools to accelerate and simplify AI development, including an automated development toolkit and a unified framework for model training.

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"Huawei is ready to work with all stakeholders to turn AI into a practical reality, making it inclusive and available for every person, every home, and every organisation", the company said.

Huawei's push into AI chips comes as China looks to develop its semiconductor industry and be less dependent on imports.

By "all scenarios", Huawei means different deployment scenarios for AI, including public clouds, private clouds, edge computing in all forms, industrial IoT devices, and consumer devices.

"At present, AI projects are always labour-intensive, especially during the data labelling process". When this platform is in place, AI will become a basic skill shared by all application developers, he said.

At the event, Xu announced the release of the company's Ascend series of AI chips - the world's first AI IP and chip series designed for a full range of scenarios. But Xu pointed out there is a growing gap between its development and sluggish enterprise adoption - only around 4% of enterprises have invested in or deployed the technology.

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