Once a quiet backwater of computer science academia, artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies are now basically everywhere.
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And “everywhere” means not just in the software services accessed through smartphones or connected home devices, but on the devices themselves.
In computing, there’s generally a tradeoff between speed and flexibility. If there’s a computationally difficult task to perform, one has the choice between using a CPU, which can perform many different types of operations, albeit somewhat slowly, or using specialized hardware which can perform a much more limited set of tasks, but much more quickly.
In the case of AI inference and feature extraction from audio and visual data streams, performing the requisite computations on-device has remained difficult due to the complexity and scale of the job. Some of the largest technology companies have developed their own proprietary silicon to accelerate the performance of AI inference on their own devices, but a new generation of semiconductor companies are developing dedicated AI chips for use by the broader industry.
Kneron is one of them. With offices in San Diego, Taipei, Shenzhen and Zuhai, the semiconductor company has developed a number of technologies it hopes will usher in a new era, where AI is everywhere.
In a continuation of its ongoing Series A round, the company announced today it has raised an additional $40 million in funding. The Series A2 round brings Kneron’s total Series A fundraise to $73 million. Horizons Ventures, the venture firm operated by Hong Kong business tycoon Li Ka-shing, led this tranche, and has participated in prior rounds raised by the company. Prior investors in the company include the likes of Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund, CDIB, Himax Technologies, Qualcomm, Thundersoft, and Sequoia Capital.
Information about the company’s valuation and other terms of the deal were not disclosed.
A statement Kneron provided to Crunchbase News says that the company “provides complete end-to-end integrated hardware and software solutions that enable on-device edge AI inferencing in mobile devices, personal computers, and IoT use cases including smart home devices, surveillance, payments, and smart cars. Their solutions augment cloud-based AI to accelerate AI inferencing on any device.”
Albert Liu, the company’s founder and CEO, said “We are excited to continue our journey with partners like Horizons Ventures who share our passion and dedication towards our mission to enable AI on any device, democratize AI, and build the Edge AI Net.”
The company currently has the integrated SoC AI chipsets, optimized machine learning algorithms and the fast, power-efficient neural processing unit (NPU) technology at the heart of its offerings in the hands of customers.
When we talk about “computing on the edge,“ what we really mean to say is that more and more, the devices in our pockets, sitting on our bookshelves, hanging on our walls, in our cars and, eventually, what we wear on our clothes and as jewelry will be able to crunch numbers locally, without piping that data to the cloud, to serve requests and process incoming data. That will, in theory, bolster the security, speed and efficiency of tech that tries to be smart on our behalf.
Note: The headline of this article was changed after publication to ensure clarity. The original headline read “Edge AI Chip Shop Kneron Raises $40M More To Extend A Now $73M Series A”
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias