AI to fuel Intel's run on new growth road

Last Updated 28 January 2018, 18:32 IST

Intel India is going ahead with a new strategy to handle tech disruption, with a focus on a software-based growth approach in a world where data, through Artificial Intelligence and analytics, has impacting business landscapes of all hues.

Intel Corporation CEO Brian Krzanich has realised that the chip business, led by PCs, and the data centre business will be the driving points, but he is also looking at making the company a leader in cloud data centres, IoT, new memory solutions and AI.

In a statement in 2006, Krzanich had said, "It's almost impossible to perfectly predict the future, but if there's one thing about the future I am 100% sure of, it is the role of data. Anything that produces data, anything that requires a lot of computing, the vision is, we're there."

To further enhance his vision, he has made some strategic acquisitions, including those of Altera, Mobileye, Movidius and Nervana. The company is also going ahead with its plan to come up with a graphics processor that can compete with Nvidia, which has made inroads among AI researchers with its chips.

Intel's $16.1 billion in total revenue was a 6% increase, compared with 2016. Its Client Computing Group (CCG) primarily consists of the company's PC processor and related component sales, and delivered majority revenues for the company for the fiscal 2017. But at the same time, IoT sales rose 23% to a record $849 million, and the memory solutions group soared 37% to $891 million - 44% of Intel's total sales are now non-PC.

High-end processors

Intel is facing intense competition from peers like IBM, AMD, and even startups in chip manufacturing. Intel's processors from the pioneering 4-bit 4004 (1971) to the present high-end offerings, which include the 64-bit Itanium 2 (2002), Intel Core i9, and Xeon E3 and E5 series processors (2015) have changed the landscape of computing.

But, competitors are giving sleepless night to the company by offering increasingly speedy chips that can crunch huge sets of data used in AI and machine-learning, such as image and voice recognition and credit card fraud prevention. Intel wants to combine its Xeon server chips with products from two companies it recently acquired, Altera and Nervana Systems.

Intel also unveiled its new Pentium Silver processors and budget-friendly Celeron chips. These chips are cheap and power-efficient processors for desktops and laptops, same as 'Gemini Lake' architecture. Intel is going ahead with its plan to to announce a laptop-computer chip that combines an Intel processor and an AMD graphics unit.

Focus on AI

Realising the game changing nature of AI, Intel is also putting more emphasis on acquiring technologies which will help the company become a leader. As part of its game plan, the company has allocated over $1 billion into AI startups through its Intel Capital Center arm, in companies like Mighty AI, Data Robot, Lumiata and AEye, among others.

As part of the strategy the company is focusing on industries like autonomous driving, medical tech, climate change research, automated equipment inspection, AI computing, and more. Intel is looking at utilising tech prowess of MobileEye to store, analyse data generated by these vehicles, which will have customers from auto manufacturers, and other segments.

Intel is looking at co-creation and JVs with companies across the globe. Last October, it announced working with Facebook and other firms to design a chip with AI capability to take on Nvidia.

Nivruti Rai, Country Head of Intel India, and Vice President of Data Center Group, says that AI will drive the next industrial revolution, transforming the way businesses operate and how people live and engage in every aspect of life.

Intel is powering AI across the broadest set of use cases from health, sports, entertainment, and education, to autonomous driving and fostering and encouraging AI-based innovations in the ecosystem as well. To stitch together AI solutions, it has the full range of technologies and collaterals including memory, storage, and communications.

Intel India MD Prakash Mallya says the challenges that AI can address and roadblocks in its implementation are vague. The Intel India Report, commissioned along with IDC, states that nearly 75% of the firms anticipate benefits in business process efficiency and employee productivity with the use of AI.

"Intel already has both hardware and software platforms for building AI applications. When you combine that with democratising AI through developer education and deep industry collaborations, there is huge opportunity for us to lead the transformations in India," he says.

Besides Intel Developer Programme to the AI community through Intel Nervana AI Academy, the company is working towards spreading AI technology by working through the Intel Student Developer Programme.

Local expansion

Intel India is one of the company's largest design centres globally. Over the last 20 years since it commenced R&D in India, Intel has consistently invested in growing its R&D and innovation presence in the country.

In June 2017, it committed Rs 1,100 crore in building a new state-of-the-art design house at its Sarjapur Ring Road (SRR) facility in Bengaluru. The company continues to strengthen its technical expertise in the country with local engineers, and through its engagement with the government and private sector.

According to Ravishankar Kuppuswamy, Vice President of Programmable Solutions Group, and General Manager for Engineering at Intel, the company has come a long way since first setting up its sales office here in 1988. "We are into silicon development, software development, and platform development at our R&D centre," he says.

Intel India is engaged in cutting-edge engineering work, such as chip/system-on-chip design, graphics, software and platform for the cloud, devices and IoT markets involving advanced technology areas such as AI, virtual reality and 5G. Intel India has invested over $4.5 billion.

AI is an integral part of Intel's strategy globally and in India, and the SRR campus, with approximately 620,000 sq feet of space, will continue to be used for designing products and solutions that accelerate the adoption of technologies such as 5G and AI in the country. Besides best-in-class design capabilities in India, the company continues its momentum in cutting-edge innovation and design from India, taking advantage of the vibrant ecosystem here.

Strategic role
Intel India plays a strategic role in Intel's growth, with significant contributions to its technology and product leadership. The company has trained 9,500 developers, students and professors across 90 organisations in AI, over the past six months.

"Intel India has collaborated with 40 academic institutions that are using the technology for scientific research and 50 public and private organisations across ecommerce, healthcare, technology, defence, banking and financial services," says Mallya.

Intel India has collaborated with TCS to create an AI Centre of Excellence for accelerating the development of AI solutions. Last November, Intel India and the Karnataka government announced a partnership to create a repository of road and traffic information. This platform is expected to help several startups and companies build services over the data collected on the platform.

The company has realised the next journey is with data, and where computing is required.

At the company's 50th anniversary in this July, Krzanich had his task cut out. "The new normal is that as we go after new business, people will come after us. The new normal is that we embrace change and act as One Intel - a hungry, aggressive company not content to play defense, but instead fired up to go after a $260-billion total addressable market," he stated.

(Published 28 January 2018, 15:06 IST)

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