Are Smartphones Without AI a Thing of the Past?

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It is no surprise that according to Gartner’s latest Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies research, artificial intelligence is one of the prevailing mega-trends in the technology industry. Today, with practically every top technology company around the world involved in AI in some form, AI has penetrated into every facet of the consumers’ lives—but to see and understand what Huawei CBG has done in this area is enlightening and futuristic.

1)  What does AI mean for Huawei and why is it an important feature in its devices? 

Huawei’s initiatives and goals follow a customer-centric approach with innovation at the heart of everything they do. Constant innovation is only possible when you keep a tab on the pulse of your consumer and the market. We do this by investing heavily in R&D.

In 2017, about 80,000 staff worked in R&D, accounting for 45% of total company staff. There were CNY 89.6 billion R&D expenses, accounting for 14.9% of the company’s total revenue. According to statistics by the European Commission, Huawei invested up to EUR 10.4 billion in R&D in 2017, ranking sixth globally and ahead of Apple. Total R&D expenses over the past decade exceed 39.40 billion RMB, placing Huawei third globally. Hence, we continue to lead the AI agenda in the smartphone industry globally.  

AI has come to become an important feature for our devices because it enables the phone to function efficiently and intelligently while offering the best possible user experience for our consumers. With AI on-device, the consumer has everything he needs to help optimise its interaction and phone experience, without the hassle of downloading and engaging with multiple applications.

Huawei’s goal is to continually and consistently create AI powered devices that brings ease and efficiency into consumers daily lives.

2)  What is Huawei’s overarching strategy for AI? 

Huawei is committed to leading the AI agenda in the smartphone industry. Our focus lately has been on developing cloud (server-side) and on-device (client-side) AI. To Huawei, the end-game for AI will have a space for both cloud and on-device AI, and the two will complement each other to offer maximum efficiency and ease to consumers.

Huawei’s current focus on on-device AI comes from an increased awareness of consumer privacy. Take the smart gallery, for instance. Huawei’s latest implementation of image recognition relies solely on the local NPU. By doing away with the cloud requirement, the new smart gallery not only performs vastly better, but this also addresses privacy concerns that users might have shared in the past.

3)  How has Huawei been spearheading the development of on-device AI? 

Huawei is a visionary and leader in development of AI in smartphones. Huawei had foreseen the boom of AI and designed the world’s first SoC with a discrete neural processing unit (NPU), the Kirin 970, at a time when competitors were still looking for ways to leverage the combination of CPU, GPU and DSP to accelerate AI processes.

In simple terms, while other smartphone brands were trying combine existing technology to make their smartphones smarter, Huawei CBG was using breakthrough technology to make its phones intelligent by enabling it with on-device AI chipset and functionality, offering a spectacular and efficient experience for its users.

In fact, shortly after the announcement of the SoC at IFA 2017, Huawei CBG launched the Mate 10 Series, allowing consumers to experience for themselves the power of AI followed by a more enhanced device, the HAUWEI P20 Pro.

Equipped with the NPU, the powerful Kirin 970, delivers AI performance that surpasses any CPU in AI-related tasks with up to 50 times the efficiency and 25 times the performance. The impressive performance of Kirin 970 exemplifies Huawei’s commitment to on-device AI, and enables users to fully harness the power of Huawei’s cloud platform in everyday activities.

4)  Could you give examples of how Huawei’s AI features are being applied? 

Let’s look at HUAWEI P20 Pro for instance. With an in-built Kirin 970 processor, the HUAWEI P20 Series is equipped with 40 MP Leica Triple Camera that delivers unparalleled sharpness, color accuracy, focus and contrast with every single shot. It is also enabled with AI beautification solutions and scene recognition that captures the foreground and background with every detail and without any loss of colour, contrast and clarity. The device offers unmatched low light photography experience, with 5x times zoom in comparison to any other smartphone in this category and captures more than what a naked eye can see.

Achieving DxOMark’s highest overall scores, the HUAWEI P20 Series includes advanced, intelligent camera systems to enhance users’ smartphone photography experience. 

Our upcoming lines of devices are going to wow our customers and set a new benchmark in the smartphone industry.

 How does Huawei envision the future of AI? 

In the future, on-device AI and cloud AI will continue to converge and complement each other. On-device AI will continue to serve real-time and data sensitive demands, while the cloud will support devices with its supreme computing power. When AI reaches maturity, mobile devices will become capable, personal assistants for people from all walks of life. Huawei also believes two megatrends will emerge in the AI space: natural interfaces and proactive services.

Natural interfaces: Users will find increasingly natural ways to interact with their devices. Devices today can already see what users do and listen to users talk—it is only a matter of time before users can naturally converse with a device and receive logical feedback.

Proactive services: Using its understanding of the user and their circumstances, a device will be able to predictively enable services, even before the user asks for it. For example, when a device sees its user strolling into a supermarket, it will automatically pull up a designated payment app, in anticipation of the checkout process.

How is Huawei supporting developers who are keen to develop on its platform? 

While Huawei has already found success in the AI space, true innovation and the best user experience can only be attained through collaboration. Huawei hopes to work together with developers, as well as content and service providers, to create value for end-users.

Huawei is actively nurturing an open ecosystem where Huawei and developers can easily collaborate and work together towards a more vibrant app ecosystem. In order to enable developer to better tap into the AI capability of its chipset, Huawei has opened its HiAI mobile computing platform to developers. There, developers will find more than 20 APIs that let them easily integrate AI functions into their apps for Huawei devices.

As Huawei continues to focus on on-device AI, developers can look forward to devices that support more AI functionalities in the future, and enjoy the peace of mind knowing that their work will be adopted by more and more users as time goes on.