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Qualcomm Snapdragon 865: What does it mean for Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial Intelligence is becoming more and more important in everyday life, so here’s what the Snapdragon 865 will bring to upcoming Android flagships.

Qualcomm announced the new Snapdragon 865 chip on December 3, and now the tech manufacturer has delineated its performance in exacting detail, in particular with regard to what it will change about the way we use artificial intelligence (AI) on our smartphones. Along with a specs bump to the hardware, a significant change is that many of AI functions will now be performed on-device rather than via the cloud.

The AI engine is comprised of several different components: the Adreno 650 GPU, the Kyro 585 CPU, and the Hexagon 698 processor. Overall, the AI engine boasted by the Snapdragon 865 can achieve 15TOPS (that’s 15 trillion operations per second), with a 3MB system cache and support for LPDDR5. But what does that actually mean for your daily smartphone habits?

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The most exciting part is probably the implications for low-power usage. The Snapdragon 865 can run always-on neural networks at low power; less than 1mW for the camera, and less than 1mA for voice multi-word wake-up. This not only means that it can perform operations such as face unlock at lower power, but another given example is that your phone will be able to detect and identify music in the surrounding environment without even having to go to the hassle of unlocking the device, starting up the relevant app and asking Google Assistant for instance.

Another feature that was showcased was on-device speech-to-text transcription and translation. Rather than relaying between the device and the cloud, on-device transcription can complete the action much more quickly with lower latency, and the finished result demonstrates near-simultaneous translation to another language.

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Qualcomm was also proud to boast its security credentials. Giving the example of face unlock, the tech manufacturer explained that there are separate security functions that take place along a “protective pipeline” in order to protect user’s data, all without it leaving the device for the cloud — and that the entire process happens just in fraction of seconds. The Secure Processing Unit also is the first to offer smartcard equivalent certification. With privacy and data protection becoming ever more important to consumers, we hope that these changes will indeed provide greater security than ever before.

The implications go into the future too; thanks to cooperation with Google, Snapdragon claims that phones running on its chip will soon support an Android Electronic ID feature that’s expected to come with Android R and will let you store documents such as a driver’s licence on your smartphone for easier identification.

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