Huawei is gearing up to launch an application processor that combines CPU (central processing unit), GPU (graphics processing unit) and AI (artificial intelligence) functions, according to a report from DigiTimes. Huawei Consumer Business Group CEO Richard Yu discussed the plans during the 2017 China Internet Conference in Beijing which started earlier this week.
Yu stated that the new processor would debut in the second half of the year, though he didn’t go into specifics about what the AI component of the chip would allow for (CPU and GPU have been being built into the same SoC since 2010). Yu did mention, however, that Huawei’s EMUI interface supported “deep machine learning and smart computing capability,” said DigiTimes.
Which CPU and GPU will feature in this new chip is an interesting question. When ARM launched the Cortex-A75, DynamIQ and the Mali-G72 it focused on how all three can be used in conjunction to boost the AI capabilities of a SoC. ARM expects that its Cortex-A processors designed for DynamIQ can be optimized to provide a 50x boost to AI performance over the next 3-5 years, and provide a 10x faster response between the CPU and any on-chip accelerator hardware.
If the new AI focused chip uses the Cortex-A75, then it seems likely that the rumors are right about the Kirin 970 (expected to power the Huawei Mate 10) sticking with the Cortex-A73, however there will likely be others improvements over the Kirin 960 in terms of the GPU and the fabrication process.
Meanwhile, Yu did touch on the upcoming Kirin 970 SoC at the conference: he didn’t give away much, but security will seemingly be a core focus of the chip, as Yu revealed that it would support credit transfers among banks (presumably in China only, where Huawei Pay now supports more than 50 banks and public transportation systems in many cities). Yu added that future Huawei chips would also transform your smartphone into a car key for use with brands like “BMW, Benz, Audi and Porsche,” which Huawei has already partnered with.
Those who’ve followed Huawei in the news may be aware that Richard Yu has big plans for the company, seeking to become the number one smartphone OEM in the next four or so years and overtake Apple by the end of next year. Speaking to Reuters in November 2016, Yu said: “We are going to take them (Apple) step-by-step, innovation-by-innovation,” adding, “there will be more opportunities. Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality.”
News of this chip advancement, then, isn’t a complete surprise, but just what Huawei will offer in this sphere to increase its market share remains to be seen. The Chinese OEM was rumored to be working on a digital assistant like Samsung Bixby and Apple Siri — given this most recent news, I’d say that this is pretty likely to happen.
While Huawei’s AI chip is set to be unveiled this year, there are no clues as to when it would see commercialization. We’ll let you know when we learn more.