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Your smartphone might get 'smart' RAM soon

Samsung's announcement does raise plenty of questions though.

Published onAugust 25, 2021

galaxy S20 LPDDR5 Samsung Unpacked 2020
  • Samsung has announced LPDDR5-PIM RAM.
  • This is essentially ‘smart’ RAM that features AI capabilities.
  • Samsung says this tech is able to increase performance while using less power.

Machine learning is used in plenty of smartphones today, helping out in everything from system performance and translations to voice commands and camera quality. Now, Samsung has announced that it’s bringing similar smarts to its RAM modules for smartphones.

The company revealed that its processing-in-memory (PIM) technology is coming to RAM used in smartphones. This is in addition to the tech landing in DRAM modules and high-bandwidth memory.

“Samsung’s LPDDR5-PIM mobile memory technology can provide independent AI capabilities without data center connectivity,” the company noted in a press release. “Simulation tests have shown that the LPDDR5-PIM can more than double performance while reducing energy usage by over 60% when used in applications such as voice recognition, translation, and chatbot (sic).”

Why would you want smart RAM?

This sounds like a rather handy feature at first glance, potentially resulting in faster, more efficient machine learning performance, but we’ve got plenty of questions regarding the technology.

For starters, it’s unclear if PIM takes the form of an actual processor attached to the RAM module itself or if it’s simply a suite of optimizations and algorithms. If it’s indeed an actual chip, we then wonder whether third-party developers will be able to access it for their own needs.

It’s also unclear just how powerful this technology is and whether it can handle more advanced tasks like image processing and computer vision. After all, many smartphones have chipsets that are more than capable of running advanced machine learning tasks, and virtually all flagship devices have dedicated AI silicon too. But PIM-enabled RAM with a decent amount of grunt could theoretically be ideal for budget phones, allowing OEMs to perhaps go with cheaper silicon and let the “smart” RAM do some of the heavy lifting.

Finally, Samsung hasn’t revealed when we’ll actually see this RAM in smartphones, although it’s aiming to complete standardization of PIM technology in the first half of 2022.

In any event, we’ve asked Samsung for more details on the LPDDR5-PIM tech and will update this article if/when it gets back to us.