[Hearing from an AI Expert – 4] On-device AI Breathes Life into IoT

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As technology has evolved, it has changed our lives dramatically. It’s truly startling to think just how different life was before the invention of innovations like smartphones, the internet and PCs.


Recently, AI has emerged as a hot topic in this regard based on its potential impact both on technology and on society. Especially with on-device AI1, AI will be embedded in devices that we use in everyday lives without necessarily connecting to processors in the cloud. To learn more about this exciting subject, Samsung Newsroom met with the head of the Samsung AI Center Cambridge, Dr. Andrew Blake.


Dr. Blake was formerly the Director of both the Alan Turing Institute (which he also helped found) and, before that, Microsoft’s Cambridge Research Laboratory. As a pioneer in the development of the theory and algorithms that make it possible for computers to behave as seeing machines, he explained how Samsung’s AI and hardware innovations will enrich people’s lives in fundamental ways.



Taking IoT to the Next Level

“AI is what is going to breathe life into IoT,” begins Blake.


On-device AI realizes AI functions by processing AI algorithms on the device itself, without necessarily connecting to the cloud, and that is advantageous for privacy and personal information protection, as well as for security.


Unlocking AI-powered smart devices’ true potential will require a combination of two factors: seamlessly connected hardware and an approach to AI that is human-centric above all else.


“One key area is health and fitness – for example, linking exercise, food and mental wellbeing. Another is communication and memories – especially via photography and video. For that, we have to move past the academic world of prototypes working on high-powered computer systems, and get AI working in a leaner fashion – on the everyday devices that people are using.”



The Right Tools

As Blake notes, Samsung’s wide-ranging device portfolio makes it uniquely qualified to deliver this human-centric future for AI.


“This is a great time to be adding new dimensions to Samsung’s AI capabilities, given the company’s leading market position in devices of all sorts,” says Blake. “On-device AI begins with hardware, and this is why working for Samsung is such a fabulous opportunity for AI researchers.”


“Hardware is the channel that moves us beyond simply smart algorithms, to put those algorithms in everyone’s pockets and homes. The big challenge that Cambridge is addressing is moving high-quality embedded AI beyond specialists’ research labs, where people with PhDs in machine learning and in systems work for several months to implement a new embedded system. We envisage a world where advanced tools enable the world’s software developers to move their AI models, simply and effectively, onto Samsung devices, and we are working hard on those tools.”


As Blake explains, on-device AI, in which AI algorithms are processed on a device itself, rather than sent to the cloud, offers significant advantages here by providing a safe and reliable means to protect users’ privacy and data. “We also need to do that in a way that holds the data close, to reassure people that their data is being held safely and privately”, he added.



A Multi-Disciplinary Approach

When it comes to AI, what exactly does the Cambridge AI center want to bring to consumers? The answer to that question is what Samsung has described as a human-centric approach to AI innovation, which Blake describes in further detail.


“Human-centric AI is about homing in on the areas of life that people really care about,” says Blake. “I believe this will require a multi-disciplinary approach. I am not so excited about a future designed solely by engineers. Instead, we need to collaborate with other disciplines, especially design – hardware, user interfaces, and above all, system design – and with human disciplines such as psychology, to achieve a technological future that really helps people live better.”


Taking this multi-disciplinary approach, the Cambridge AI center endeavors to better understand human behavior by exploring areas like communication of emotion, and further expand the boundaries of user-centric communication.2



Drawing from a Diverse Team

Samsung AI Center Cambridge employs a team of experts of various disciplines, and emphasizes collaboration between them.


“We work together a lot as a team,” says Blake. “Our two Program Directors, Maja Pantic and Nic Lane, are world-experts in non-verbal human behavior and in embedded AI, respectively. We also have quite a few senior specialists in machine learning, in machine vision, in networks and devices, and in computing and cognition. We now have a team of very talented people, and new ideas are flowing freely!” says Blake.


As Blake notes, what makes the Cambridge AI center unique is not just its team’s wide-ranging expertise, but its location as well.


“Cambridge is a very special place,” begins Blake. “The university is one of the strongest in the world in research, and that is coupled with an extraordinary culture of research ventures, and a whole constellation of startups in robotics, medicine, AI, self-driving, and many other areas.”


“Being in this environment is important to us for several reasons. It is a stimulating ecosystem and an extraordinary network; it is a rich source of expert talent; it is well connected to the ‘Golden Triangle’ with London and Oxford.”


Of course, in addition to taking full advantage of the benefits that come with its location, the Cambridge center draws strength from its connections to other AI centers in Samsung Research’s global network.


“I am especially pleased to be connected with Samsung’s other AI centers around the world, where I know some of their internationally renowned scientists well,” says Blake. “I believe that, as we begin to work together, we can bring something special to consumers.”


Having more than 40 years of experience working in the field of AI, Blake added, “I was born in the same year as AI – 1956 – the year the Dartmouth conference famously coined the term AI – and I have been studying AI vision for 40 years. I have been lucky to have such an extraordinary career.”


1 AI that processes information on a device itself, rather than sending that information to the cloud. Because on-device AI does not rely on outside networks, it is regarded as safer and more reliable than cloud-based AI.
2 https://internetofbusiness.com/samsung-uk-to-open-new-ai-centre/

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