With artificial intelligence (AI) trumpeted as destined to reshape human behaviour in all industries around the world in the near future, Huawei Technologies Co revealed on Wednesday its five-part AI strategy in the kick-off address to Huawei Connect 2018 held in Shanghai, China.
The global technology giant’s rotating chairman, Eric Xu, told an audience that the company will mainly focus on five core areas – investing in AI research, building a full-stack AI portfolio, developing an open ecosystem and talent, strengthening the existing portfolio and driving operational efficiency. “Strategically, we will continue to invest in basic research and talent development, build a full-stack, all-scenario AI portfolio, and foster an open global ecosystem,” he said at the opening of the three-day event. Xu said the company would continue to improve internal management and efficiency through AI.
“We will develop fundamental capabilities for data and power-efficient (ie, less data, computing and power needed), secure and trusted, automated machine learning in computer vision, natural language processing, decision and inference,” he said. Xu said its full-stack AI portfolio would deliver abundant and affordable computing power, provide an efficient and easy-to-use AI platform with full-pipeline services, and make the portfolio adaptive to all scenarios including cloud, edge and device. “We will collaborate widely with global academia, industries, and partners. And we will make sure to bring an AI mindset and techniques into existing products and solutions to create greater value and enhance competitive strengths,” he said.
Xu added the company would apply AI to massive volumes of routine business activities for better efficiency and quality in order to improve the functionality of its technology. “Our full-stack portfolio includes chips, chip enablement, a training and inference framework and application enablement,” he said. The strategy is designed to provide powerful support for Huawei Cloud EI and HiAI. Backed by its AI portfolio, Huawei Cloud EI will be able to deliver a full-stack portfolio for enterprise and government customers. HiAI will provide a full-stack portfolio for smart devices.
In September 2017, the company released Huawei Cloud EI, an AI service platform for enterprises and governments. In April this year, the company launched HiAI, its AI engine for smart devices. Xu said the company would in the telecom sector adopt SoftCOM AI to make the network more efficient. In the consumer market, HiAI will infuse intelligence into consumer devices, making them smarter than ever. Its portfolio will also include an AI acceleration card, AI server, AI appliances and many other products.
“Full stack means that Huawei is able to provide AI application developers with unparalleled computing power and a strong application development platform. We are working towards making AI more inclusive– making it affordable, effective and reliable for all,” he said. According to Xu, Huawei’s AI strategy is inspired by 10 changes that the company expects to see in the AI industry. Those changes are: an increase in the speed of training; availability and cost of computing power; AI deployment; efficiency and security of algorithms; AI automation; practical application of AI; model updates; synergy between AI and other technologies; platform support; and talent availability.
“At present, AI projects are always labour-intensive, especially during the data labelling process. This requires so much labour,” said Xu. “Moving forward, we must greatly increase AI automation to achieve automated or semi-automated operations, especially during processes like data labelling, data collection, feature extraction, model design and training. “In the future, we need to promote greater synergy between AI and other technologies, such as cloud, IoT, edge computing, blockchain, big data and databases. This is the only way to fully unleash the value of AI.” Xu stressed the need for a one-stop platform that provides the necessary automation tools, making it easier and faster to develop AI applications.
When this platform is in place, AI will become a basic skill shared by all application developers, he said. He considered the lack of AI talent, especially data scientists, as a major obstacle to the progress of AI. “Addressing this challenge requires an AI mindset. That means providing intelligent, automated and easy-to-use AI platforms, tools, services, and training and education programmes to foster a huge number of data science engineers,” he said. At the event, Xu announced the release of the company’s Ascend series of AI chips – the world’s first AI IP and chip series designed for a full range of scenarios.