With so many companies looking to adopt artificial intelligence, it’s no wonder that providers of AI solutions are racing to position themselves as leaders in the market.

Well-established players, such as IBM, Microsoft, Google and Amazon, are fine-tuning their AI platforms to make it easier and faster for customers to incorporate a wide range of AI technologies.

But a new rival is hot on their heels. Although already an ambitious player in China, search engine provider Baidu hadn’t managed to establish itself as a major force in the AI space…until now.

Baidu is bringing to market an AI-optimised chip called Kunlun. With the move, Baidu joins the ranks of a select few companies that not only offer an AI platform that helps enterprises deploy AI-infused solutions, but have also developed their own hardware to maximise AI processing.

The chip can be used to provide AI capabilities such as speech and text analytics, natural language processing, and visual recognition, as well as to support deep learning via Baidu’s PaddlePaddle platform.

As with competing hardware, the chips can be deployed in the cloud or within a data centre for use in AI-related processing. The Kunlun chip can also be deployed at the edge, such as in autonomous vehicles, an area in which Chinese companies are allocating sizeable research and development funds. But edge deployments of AI don’t stop there.

On-device AI is used in mobile phone cameras to improve picture quality; it can provide speech and voice recognition and it may be used in security systems, drones or robots.

AI at the edge can increase efficiency since at least a portion of the analysis, if not all, can be performed without the need to transport data to and from the cloud.

It also offers greater flexibility, because the device can utilise AI even when it is offline, and it can improve the user experience since the device can learn behavior patterns.

Some users may prefer it since data stays on the device instead of being transmitted over a network to the cloud.

The release of the new chipset underscores the overall momentum behind AI in China, as well as the determination of Chinese players to establish themselves as global leaders in this emerging area.

However, can a Chinese-focused service provider become a globally recognised provider of AI solutions and hardware? Baidu doesn’t market heavily to other regions, and will have a tough time competing with the likes of Amazon, Google and Microsoft, who are well-entrenched among enterprises operating throughout the globe.

Nonetheless, the company’s recent efforts demonstrate its aggressive approach, and underscore what we already know: that Chinese players have bet the farm on AI, and that we should expect to see more from them in the near future…much, much more.

Image courtesy of Baidu

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