Intel digs deep into wallet to buy its way into AI game
Virtual reality may well have been capturing the imagination of the industry in recent months, but Intel’s $400 million of AI start-up Nervana highlights it’s not all fun and games, reports Telecoms.com.
Having set its position as a leader in the data centre market and then largely missed out on the smartphone revolution, it would appear Intel is determined not to miss out on the burgeoning IoT segment, with the Nervana purchase added more firepower to the company’s efforts. The acquisition also highlights the importance of artificial intelligence to the development of the technology industry.
“Intel is a company that powers the cloud and billions of smart, connected computing devices,” said Diane Bryant, GM of the Data Center Group at Intel. “Thanks to the pervasive reach of cloud computing, the ever decreasing cost of compute enabled by Moore’s Law, and the increasing availability of connectivity, these connected devices are generating millions of terabytes of data every single day. The ability to analyse and derive value from that data is one of the most exciting opportunities for us all. Central to that opportunity is artificial intelligence.”
The IoT revolution is coming whether we like it or not, and with it will come such vast amounts of data. Due to the volume, it will beyond comprehension for humans to develop insight from the information. Current data analytics tools and processes could be described (at best) as adequate, though this is before the surge in connected devices. Statista estimates the number of connected devices will grow from 18.2 billion in 2015, through to 50.2 billion in 2020. The devices themselves will also improve, increasing the amount of information which can be collected individually, which will lead to a tidal wave of data to be analysed.
If it is assumed to be immensely difficult or more likely impossible to analyse this data and turn it into actionable insight, what is the point in collecting it in the first place. This is the justification of artificial intelligence. Using such technologies to undertake more rudimentary decision making capabilities brought about through data analysis, or presenting insight to the more complex decisions to business leaders, is where the value of artificial intelligence will be felt. If cloud computing enables the IoT revolution, artificial intelligence will make sure it’s not a waste of time or money.
For a notable proportion of the population, AI is likened to Terminator or other such doomsday stories. But as Bryant notes below, the applications of AI will stretch throughout the life of a consumer, but perhaps more importantly, the business, manufacturing and services world.
“While artificial intelligence is often equated with great science fiction, it isn’t relegated to novels and movies,” said Bryant. “AI is all around us, from the commonplace (talk-to-text, photo tagging, and fraud detection) to the cutting edge (precision medicine, injury prediction, autonomous cars). Encompassing compute methods like advanced data analytics, computer vision, natural language processing and machine learning, artificial intelligence is transforming the way businesses operate and how people engage with the world.”
The acquisition does answer a question raised by Telecoms.com a couple of weeks ago. During early July, Intel announced a new initiative with BMW and Mobileye to drive forward the development of autonomous vehicles. The initiative showed potential, though should BMW are to supply the cars, Intel the chips and Mobileye the detection capabilities, have the body, the muscles and the eyes, but not the brain/AI to bring it all together. This Nervana acquisition in theory completes the circle and provides the intelligence aspect of the car.
Artificial intelligence has the potential to shape the technology industry moving forward, and it would appear this is a view which is shared by the major players. Google has acquired nine AI firms, including Deepmind for $625 million, Twitter has four major acquisitions, most recently Magic Pony for $150 million, Salesforce has acquired two AI start-ups already this year and Apple reported bought Turi for $200 million. The money being spent to gain the upper hand in this sub-sector is beginning to rival the early days of cloud computing.