The first day of Computex Taipei 2017 opened up in expectation of 130,000 visitors attending to learn about the latest developments of the technology industry. With the Innovex expo alone featuring 272 start-ups it’s easy to see that the industry isn’t standing still.
Kicking off the CPX Conference was a series of keynotes on the topic of Future Technology Trends by some of the industry’s leaders. The very first of these speakers was Arm’s very own President of Intellectual Property Group, Rene Haas.
After noting his inadvertent colour-coordination with the purples of the Computex branding, he opened the talks with a discussion of the evolution of the technology industry since his first Computex attendance ten years ago. That was a time when mobile phones were the cutting edge of technology and mobile email was only just emerging; the more common travel communication technique was to have faxes posted under your hotel room door.
From then, to now, there are 270 billion connected devices out there and we often have not one, but several, on us at all times and with any number of capabilities that weren’t even imaginable a decade ago.
The evolution of the data we can gather and the way in which we feel we need it are fascinating when you consider that we weren’t even aware it existed just a short time ago. Fitness trackers are an excellent example, as Rene said ‘Who knew 10,000 steps was a “goal”?’ but we now know that it is in fact a figure which can help us keep fitter and stronger and prolong our lives. Right now, devices like these tell us our personal information, but they rarely interact with other devices. The next stage will see them connecting to a global network of information, whether it’s suggesting walking routes in whichever city you happen to be in, based upon your personal preferences for terrain, distance and difficulty, or allowing you to compete with famous athletes.
Another area Rene sees with huge growth potential is robotics. Arm’s parent company, Softbank, famously created Pepper, the smart robot assistant who can help you raise a service ticket in their phone shops, navigate a shopping centre amongst other useful tasks. Where though, do the possibilities end when you introduce empathy and emotion? Taiwan already sees huge potential for home care applications, where the elderly or isolated can be comforted, supported and assisted by smart robots making intelligent cognitive decisions.
Rene explained that Arm works with partners in this area to understand the impact of CPUs, GPUs, image processors and much more, for important functionality. Hundreds of processors will need to work in unison, with safety and security key concerns. The Artificial Intelligence (AI) component of this is also still in its early stages, with information processing and learning improving with every iteration.
Arm sees the importance of AI and commissioned a study in order to understand exactly where the global feeling towards it currently is, and where the consumer sees it making a difference.
You can see by the numbers that the markets are getting ready, for some years there was a feeling of ‘good enough’ in mobile computing, with not much left to do, but now AI means another incredibly exciting time, with unknown levels of disruption. As Rene explained, AI ‘Represents an amazing opportunity for next wave of innovation.’
In order for it to reach its full potential though, there’s still a lot to do in terms of maximising performance and intelligence and this is where new technologies like Arm’s recently released DynamIQ are adding capability to SOCs. Not only are there all kinds of processing elements involved, but client devices are gaining complexity, so we’ve invested heavily in this area as one that’s incredibly important going forward. Big AI needs a fully cohesive system and cooperation to achieve the best result. Our broad network of partners from hardware, software and client sides are working together, developing standards and ecosystems to be complex and secure, with unprecedented levels of partnership.
It’s not all about the cloud though, whilst the cloud is great for certain applications, there is an ‘insatiable demand for data.’ This means that bandwidth will simply be unable to keep up without introducing untenable levels of latency and unnecessary security concerns. This means AI also needs to work ‘at the edge’, on client devices with low power, low latency, and high security.
As devices get smarter, simple things like light switches, thermostats etc will learn, and respond to their learnings by making intuitive decisions that save us time and effort. This provides endless opportunities for improvement. If you’ve ever sat at a red light with no traffic in any direction, I’m sure you can see the potential of at-the-edge intelligence that can assess the situation and provide you with that green light right away.
Computer Vision is another offshoot of AI and we’re already beginning to see the benefits of being able to assess video data and respond to it, but we’re far from finished. Right now the vast majority of captured video data is redundant, there’s just too much for real time analytics. If you can add learning at the node, you can capture images at specific times or events to do real time learning. Again, security will be critical, as the tremendous amount of data in these images needs protecting from hacking or interruption, and this is why Computer Vision is ‘another huge opportunity for our industry.’
Of course, a discussion around smart processors wouldn’t be complete without a mention of automotive. Vehicles today can have over 100 (often Arm based) processors, but largely they don’t work together, so simply facilitating that sharing of information will be huge. Yes, lots of it will happen in the cloud, but a lot also needs to take place inside the car, there will be decision making that just can’t wait to go to the cloud so the auto industry too is at an inflection point.
These innovative industries are what Arm is all about, we take great pride in ‘enabling our partners to innovate’ and are immensely thankful for everything they continue to achieve, allowing us to continue to ‘architect the possible’.
100 billion people have ever lived on this planet, and we’ve already shipped a chip for every single one of them. With another 100 billion in our future, Masa San’s prediction of a trillion suddenly doesn’t seem so far off, and ‘what that means for connectivity is amazing.’
It’s easy to be inspired in the face of such incredible possibility, and I for one am proud to be here to see it happen.