Huawei Takes Aim at AI Sector With Two New Chips

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Technology giant Huawei launched two artificial intelligence (AI) chips yesterday that have widespread applications and point to the firm's wider ambitions in the industry.

"AI will help us to find more efficient solutions to problems we already know how to fix". Instead, Huawei will exclusively offer them within its own hardware (AI acceleration modules, cards, edge stations, appliances, and mobile data centres) from February next year - and via cloud services.

The portfolio already includes the SoftCOM AI for telecom network O&M, HiAI to bring intelligence to its consumer devices, and the Huawei EI public cloud services and FusionMind private cloud solutions to help businesses and the public sector adopt AI.

Yesterday, Huawei announced a new Ascend series chip series which are capable of machine learning as like of chips from Nvidia and Qualcomm. The second, the Ascend 310, will run low-power computing for smartphones and IoT devices, among other things.

"We are working towards making AI more inclusive, making it affordable, effective and reliable for all". "Full stack means that Huawei is able to provide AI application developers with unparalleled computing power and a strong development platform".

The third layer, called MindSpore, is a unified AI training and inference framework for devices, edge computing and cloud.

The cloud services accounted for slightly over 9% of Huawei's revenue in 2017, with a 35% growth year-on-year.

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Huawei's strategy itself has five areas of focus: Invest in AI research; build a full-stack AI portfolio - which the company has now rolled out; develop an open ecosystem and the talent to match; strengthen the existing portfolio; and drive greater operational efficiency within the company.

At a briefing later, he described AI as "general goal technology" that can be used across the economy. That fact became apparent earlier this year after Huawei rival ZTE Corp.

In front of 25,000 people at the company's annual customer event in Shanghai, rotating chairman Eric Xu said the first "full scenario" AI chips would be available commercially by the second quarter of next year inside Huawei's own products. Its mobile AI is made up of a combination of on-device AI and cloud AI.

In February this year, Huawei then used the AI capabilities of its Mate 10 Pro to drive an autonomous vehicle.

He said the "all-scenario" phrase refers to the different deployment scenarios for AI.

At the 2018 Grace Hopper Celebration, Angela Zutavern of AlixPartners offers advice for companies exploring AI.

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