The chip industry is turning to AI, Telecom News, ET Telecom

People attend GSMA 2023 Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, ​​Spain, on February 28, 2023. REUTERS/Albert GeaBarcelona: It’s been a wild few years for the microchip industry, which has recovered from a long-term supply squeeze, only to find itself at the center of a US-China battle for control of supply lines of the valuable technology.

But an industry long associated with volatility is quietly excited that artificial intelligence (AI) could be the key to longer-term stability.

The US company Nvidia dominates the market for specialized chips, so-called GPUs, which are ideal for training AI programs such as the extremely popular chatbot ChatGPT.

“Technology trends are going in Nvidia’s direction,” the company’s vice president Ronnie Vasishta told AFP at this week’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona.

This has helped make Nvidia the largest company in the industry — and one of the largest companies of any kind in the United States — at a valuation of $580 billion.

Traditional rivals like Intel and Qualcomm are now on maneuvers to make sure they don’t miss out.

Also known as semiconductors, the tiny components are essential in everything from smartphones, PCs and electric cars to sophisticated weapons, robotics and all other high-tech machines.

AI already has a strong presence in all of these areas, and the emergence of chatbots only pushes it further into the public eye.

Even in an industry where reticent engineers do the talking, the excitement is palpable.

‘Scratch the surface’

“The most exciting thing right now is AI,” said Cristiano Amon, head of rival company Qualcomm, at a Wall Street Journal event at MWC.

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He wants the world’s phones to come with chips that can handle even the trickiest AI-related tasks, especially since Qualcomm is the leader in phone chips.

Vasishta is equally enthusiastic.

“Where and how is AI used? It’ll probably be easier to answer where it’s not used,” he said.

Another chip company, UK-based Arm, is even further down the production chain than Nvidia – providing the designs used by chip suppliers.

The company’s Chris Bergey told AFP that AI has huge potential.

The kind of chips that Nvidia makes are great for training AI models in data centers, he said, but smartphones need chips that can act on those models.

“It’s a huge opportunity and it’s ubiquitous,” he said.

He compares the AI ​​revolution to the emergence of apps, which appeared about 15 years ago and quickly changed the way we used technology.

“AI is definitely something that has a lot of interesting applications, and we’re still scratching the surface of where we’re going to go.”

‘Too cool’

But nothing is easy with chips.

The supply chain is fiendishly complex – consultancy Accenture estimates a chip crosses borders 70 times before ending up in a phone, camera or car.

Countries like China and the United States would prefer to have more control.

And there’s an additional problem: The factories that make most of the world’s chips are in Taiwan, a self-governing island claimed by China.

This could bring China and the United States into direct conflict.

Still mild-mannered, semiconductor executives don’t get drawn into discussions on these issues.

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“We don’t really have a position on geopolitics, we comply with all US regulations that are required as a US company,” Vasishta said.

Bergey, who has been in the industry for 25 years, said he’s seen chips go from “very cool” to “very boring.”

“They’re cool right now, maybe too cool with too much attention,” he said.

“It’s a dynamic thing that the industry is dealing with and we need to see how these things evolve.”