‘Biggest Leap’: Qualcomm Introduces Range Of AI Capabilities In New Snapdragon Processor

Qualcomm Snapdragon 888

On the first day of the Snapdragon Tech Summit Digit, Qualcomm has announced the release of the Snapdragon 888, which is its latest 5G-equipped flagship smartphone processor. This, according to the company, would set the benchmark for flagship smartphones in 2021.

This new smartphone processor offers industry-leading mobile innovations in 5G for improved enterprise mobility, video telephony, console-quality cloud gaming etc. Of special interest is the artificial intelligence offered by this processor, which uses the 6th generation Qualcomm AI Engine with Hexagon 780 processor, which provides performance improvement by up to 50%.

Enhanced AI Capabilities 

Qualcomm describes Snapdragon 888 as its ‘biggest leap in architecture and performance in years’. With the introduction of the new Hexagon 780 processor, Qualcomm removes the distance between the accelerators and combines them to form the fused AI accelerator architecture, as opposed to a separate scalar, vector, and tensor accelerators used for earlier models. As a matter of fact, the performance per watt on the Hexagon 780 processor is three times higher than the previous generation.

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Additionally, the company has also dedicated a large shared memory across each of the accelerators that will help in the efficient movement of data. This memory space is about 16 times larger than its predecessor and offers up to 1000 times faster hand-off time between.

The new processor 888 also offers a processing speed of 26 TOPS (Tera Operations per Second), which according to the company is the highest for TOPS performance on mobile, more than the previous best offered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 865. Further, the Adreno 680 GPU of the AI engine in the 888 processor offers a 43% AI performance boost and a faster floating-point calculation.

The Snapdragon 888 processor also introduces the 2nd generation Qualcomm Sensing hub, which has a low power AI processor (less than 1mA) that gives a five-time improvement on the AI performance. This extra AI processing power will offload up to 80% of the workload that is usually borne by the Hexagon processor.

This sensing hub collects and deciphers data from different cores, such as connectivity data from 5G, Bluetooth and location stream and creates contextual awareness use cases.

Additionally, Qualcomm is also working with Google and TensorFlow Micro Framework to give developers easier access for optimisation on both Hexagon processors and the AI processor of the Qualcomm Sensing Hub.

Qualcomm’s on-device AI SDK called the Neural Processing SDK, has also been improved. It now includes support for additional models and gives expanded support for Windows 10 AI use cases on Snapdragon 888-powered laptops.

The company also introduced the Qualcomm AI Engine direct along with the 6th generation Qualcomm AI Engine. With this, the developers will get direct access to its different hardware components such as Hexagon 780 processor, Adreno GPU, and Qualcomm Kyro CPU.

The Qualcomm AI Engine brings a unified AI API across the whole Snapdragon platform. This API is backward compatible, meaning that it will also support the previous 5th generation Qualcomm AI Engine. The company is now working on improving the modularity and the extensibility of the AI Engine to enable developers to create their own Snapdragon accelerated AI solutions.

The announcement of the open-source compiler for AI accelerators, TVM, was made earlier this year. Using this, developers will be able to write custom operators in just a few lines of Python, which can be compiled for the Hexagon processor and plugged directly into the Qualcomm AI Engine direct framework.

Other Features

Snapdragon 888 also has a 3rd generation Qualcomm Snapdragon X60 5G Modem-RF System that will support all-day battery life even on 5G network. Users will be able to experience multi-gigabyte of speed with faster uplink and downlink 5G speed. The key difference between the Snapdragon 888 and earlier released 865 is that the former has integrated its 5G modem directly into the SoC.

The new processor also sees better gaming performance with the addition of Qualcomm Snapdragon Elit Gaming arsenal. It offers 35% faster graphics rendering, 20% increase in responsiveness, and 25% higher performance and power efficiency.

Details of all the features and specifications can be found here.

Shraddha Goled
I am a technology journalist with AIM. I write stories focused on the AI landscape in India and around the world with a special interest in analysing its long term impact on individuals and societies. Reach out to me at shraddha.goled@analyticsindiamag.com.

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