Qualcomm announces new AI chip
Image: Qualcomm

Semiconductor and telecom equipment company Qualcomm (NASDAQ:$QCOM) announced last Tuesday its new chip to improve artificial intelligence (AI) computing, in a move to get an edge on fast-moving industry competitors.

The functionally-named Qualcomm Cloud AI 100 is built with signal processing and power efficiency in mind. The San Diego-based Qualcomm expects its new chip to break waves for AI inference processing “relative to any combination of CPUs, GPUs, and/or FPGAs used in today’s data centers,” said Keith Kressin, Qualcomm’s SVP of product management.

What’s more, initial information from the company seems to validate that view.

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Power Management Comes Front and Center

The Cloud AI 100 is said by Qualcomm to offer “more than 10x performance per watt over the industry’s most advanced AI inference solutions deployed today.” The chip also features a 7nm process node to improve efficiency.

Kressin further stated that the Qualcomm Cloud AI 100 improves the company’s support of  complete cloud-to-edge solutions “all connected with high-speed and low-latency 5G connectivity.”

Qualcomm expects the chip to begin sampling to customers as early as 2H 2019.

Chip Makers Continue Looking to Future

Edge computing, the eventual successor or complement (depending on whom you ask) to cloud computing, is still a fresh concept in tech. It brings the cloud to more proximal locations, even to the point that IoT devices can pick up the slack on large computing tasks. This requires strong processing power, which Qualcomm is setting out to prove it can perform with this latest chip.

A day after Qualcomm’s new chip announcement, power conversion architect company Active-Semi International, Inc. reportedly agreed to a buyout deal with radio frequency semiconductor company Qorvo.

Qorvo’s purchase of power management company Active-Semi, a smaller competitor in the semiconductor space to Qualcomm, comes as the M&A space in semiconductors continues to consolidate the industry.

Late last month, Nvidia made its largest buyout in company history with a $6.9 billion purchase of network equipment manufacturer Mellanox Technologies. Nvidia Chief Executive Jensen Huang said in a conference call after the announcement that the move was part of the company’s new ambitions to be more of a “data center-scale company.”

Directly pointing out potential data center uses with its press release, Qualcomm’s announcement of the Cloud AI 100 is part of an ongoing trend toward thinking bigger in semiconductors. Industry observers expect a slight decline in the semiconductor market in the quarter of 2019 due to significantly lower end market demand; but on a broader time horizon, semiconductor companies like Qualcomm are driving innovation to meet future consumer demands and hopefully avert chronic shortages.

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