Date
23 July 2018
Apart from 5G, Artificial Intelligence was also a key talking point among phone industry players at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Photo: Bloomberg
Apart from 5G, Artificial Intelligence was also a key talking point among phone industry players at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Photo: Bloomberg

Why the AI buzz will get louder in mobile device industry

While 5G has dominated the discussions at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, the industry has also been highlighting the growing importance of another technology — Artificial Intelligence (AI), in relation to the future of smartphones and other mobile devices.

Among the tech heavyweights that brought up the AI topic in a big way were chipmaker Qualcomm and Taiwanese phone maker Asus, with the firms touting AI capabilities in their latest products and stressing the need for the technology adoption to make gadgets smarter and truly intelligent.

Qualcomm has been a market leader in mobile phone processors, covering both high-end and entry-level smartphone products. This time, the US chipmaker introduced a new product customized for mid-range smartphones, taking aim especially at the fast-growing Chinese market where low-end users are seeking to upgrade at affordable cost.

The new Qualcomm Snapdragon 700 Mobile Platform Series has features and performance that was previously only available in the high-end Snapdragon 800 Mobile Platform Series chips. The features include on-device AI powered by the Qualcomm Artificial Intelligence Engine, allowing enhancements to camera and device performance, among other things.

Qualcomm claims the new line will offer up to two times better AI computations compared to the Snapdragon 660, and up to 30 percent improvements in power efficiency, along with faster performance and better battery life. The new platform will also provide a better image quality.

Among other participants at the major annual industry event, Alicloud, the cloud service provider of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, seized the opportunity to announce its latest AI business solutions for enterprises to help in their digital transformation.

New services like AI-powered image search and intelligent service robot will help businesses serve their customers better and enhance their online exposure via AI technology.

The Image Search will enhance customers’ online shopping experience by providing easier and more accurate matching of both online and offline products.

Taiwan smartphone maker Asus, meanwhile, unveiled its new flagship product Zenfone 5 at the Barcelona event.

The new smartphone, with a similar design as Apple’s iPhone X, comes with AI Display technology that enables automatic adjustment of the color temperature of the screen, and a sensor to keep the screen on while users are looking at it.

The Zenfone 5 camera comes with AI scene detection, which optimizes the saturation, white balance, exposure, brightness, and post-processing based on the particular thing users are photographing, company officials said.

Through machine learning, the phone will learn from the way its users process images and gain the ability to offer recommendations with regard to editing of the photos.

In addition, the phone will come with “AI Boost” to boost the processing speed of selected applications, and AI charging to prevent the phone from getting topped to the 100 percent level during the night when the user may be sleeping.

The Taiwan firm touted a major leap in hardware, but the claims were met with some skepticism. Some technology journalists criticized Asus, accusing the firm of making overreaching claims and abusing the word AI in the launch of Zenfone 5 series.

Many of the AI features claimed by Asus were not based on machine learning technology, critics said, also noting that several of the new features have already been implemented in some existing products in the market, from firms such as Apple, Samsung and Huawei.

Asus, however, insisted that all the features are powered by AI and said the company had adopted a much wider definition for the technology.

From the perspective of the Taiwan phone maker, it appears AI is a key label for the firm to differentiate its Zenfone 5 series from other competitors.

While the industry will see heated debates in the coming months as to what exactly will constitute real breakthroughs, there is one thing that all agree upon: AI will play an increasingly important role in the 5G era and beyond for the mobile device sector as well as for the broader online world.

Going forward, consumers will seek products that incorporate advanced AI technologies and deliver fantastic experience to users.

AI has the potential to offer vastly superior mobile gadgets compared to the current generation of products. For example, the smartphone camera can benefit from the technology to adjust the image and other settings automatically based on the surrounding environment and take a far better shot. A user will not need any professional photographic experience to take a top-class picture.

Apart from benefiting consumers, AI will find more applications among enterprises. The technology, for instance, can help businesses provide 24-hour customer service automatically and also enable the firms to reach out to target customers in a more accurate way.

Firms like Apple, Google and Amazon are already using AI to provide personal assistance service for users through voice recognition, machine learning and big data analytic to provide customized services.

AI will be a key element driving the growth of the mobile device industry before the arrival of 5G, and will also continue to play a key role in global technology development for decades to come.

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RC

EJ Insight writer

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