‘AI everywhere’ IoT chips coming from Arm

Silicon microchip maker Arm is working on a new semiconductor design that it says will enable machine learning, at scale, on small sensor devices. Arm has completed testing of the technology and expects to bring it to market next year.

Artificial intelligence, implemented locally on “billions and ultimately trillions” of devices is coming, the company says in a press release. Arm Holdings, owned by Japanese conglomerate Softbank, says its partners have shipped more than 160 billion Arm-based chips to date, and that 45 million of its microprocessor designs are being placed within electronics every day.

The new machine-learning silicon will include micro neural processing units (microNPU) that can be used to identify speech patterns and perform other AI tasks. Importantly, the processing is accomplished on-device and in smaller form factors than have so far been available. The chips don’t need the cloud or any network.

Arm, which historically has been behind mobile smartphone microchips, is aiming this design – the Cortex M55 processor, paired with the Ethos-U55, Arm’s first microNPU – at Internet of Things instead.

“Enabling AI everywhere requires device makers and developers to deliver machine learning locally on billions, and ultimately trillions of devices,” said Dipti Vachani, senior vice president and general manager of Arm’s automotive and IoT areas, in a statement. “With these additions to our AI platform, no device is left behind as on-device ML on the tiniest devices will be the new normal, unleashing the potential of AI securely across a vast range of life-changing applications.”

Arm wants to take advantage of the autonomous nature of chip-based number crunching, as opposed to doing it in the cloud. Privacy-conscious (and regulated) healthcare is an example of a vertical that might like the idea of localized processing. 

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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