Skip to Content
Artificial intelligence

The company that made smartphones smart now wants to give them built-in AI

ARM’s latest mobile processors are tuned to crunch machine-learning algorithms as efficiently as possible.
February 13, 2018
ARM

The British chip design firm ARM came up with the processors  used in virtually all the world’s smartphones. Now it plans to add the hardware that will let them run artificial-intelligence algorithms, too.

ARM announced today that it has created its first dedicated machine-learning chips, which are meant for use in mobile and smart-home devices. The company says it’s sharing the plans with its hardware partners, including smartphone chipmaker Qualcomm, and expects to see devices packing the hardware by early 2019.

Currently, most small or portable devices that use machine learning lack the horsepower to run AI algorithms, so they enlist the help of  big servers in the cloud. But enabling mobile devices to run their own AI software is attractive. It can speed things up, cutting the lag inherent in sending information back and forth. It will allow hardware to run offline. And it pleases privacy advocates, who are comforted by the idea of data remaining on the device.

Jem Davies, who leads the machine-learning group at ARM, says the company spent a long time getting the chips to run AI software efficiently. “We analyze compute workloads, work out which bits are taking the time and the power, and look to see if we can improve on our existing processors,” he explains. The new chips use less power than the company’s other designs to perform the kinds of linear-algebra calculations that underpin modern artificial intelligence. They’re also better at moving data in and out of memory.

Of course, ARM isn’t alone in building mobile AI chips. The iPhone X, for example, contains a “neural engine” as part of its main chipset, which Apple created to run artificial neural networks for things like images and speech processing. Huawei’s Mate 10 smartphone contains a similar, homegrown chip that it calls a neural processing unit. The Pixel 2 handset has a chipset designed by Google to help it crunch imaging and machine-learning problems.

But ARM has an impressive track record of designing energy-efficient processors for mobile applications, and manufacturers are used to using its chips in their devices. Despite the competition, its new AI brains are likely to appear in plenty of devices next year.

Deep Dive

Artificial intelligence

AI for everything: 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2024

Generative AI tools like ChatGPT reached mass adoption in record time, and reset the course of an entire industry.

What’s next for AI in 2024

Our writers look at the four hot trends to watch out for this year

OpenAI teases an amazing new generative video model called Sora

The firm is sharing Sora with a small group of safety testers but the rest of us will have to wait to learn more.

Google’s Gemini is now in everything. Here’s how you can try it out.

Gmail, Docs, and more will now come with Gemini baked in. But Europeans will have to wait before they can download the app.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.