Qualcomm invests $100m in funding AI startups

The company looks to bring AI technology into a range of mass-market devices and cut out the cloud

Photo: Qualcomm

US chip giant Qualcomm announced today its plans to launch a venture fund that will invest up to an aggregate of $100m in early-stage startups that work in AI. In particular, the so-called Qualcomm Ventures AI Fund, will target companies that are developing ways to do intensive processing on devices such as smartphones and security cameras, as opposed to those working in remote cloud systems. 

"If you look at the smartphone today, this is one of the biggest AI platforms," Quinn Li, head of Qualcomm Ventures, said in a press release. "We want to make edge AI a ubiquitous platform."

Li also outlined the future of the fund, stating that "through the AI Fund, we'll continue to seek out startups, with a focus on autonomous cars, robotics, computer vision and IoT, who are developing new AI applications, advanced machine-learning technologies and AI/ML platforms across different verticals."

At the time of the announcement, which was made at Qualcomm Ventures’ 5G & AI Summit in San Francisco, the Qualcomm even revealed that its fund had made its first investment in AnyVision - an Isreali AI-enabled facial and body recognition startup, which Li described as having "a unique approach to AI, particularly around facial recognition". According to Globes, the chip manufacturer plans to invest between $2m–$5m to help the start-up develop in areas such as image and voice processing.

Company's move comes at a time when on-device AI is becoming a unique differentiator for major handsets, with features such as voice-activated assistants, intelligence-based personalisation and smart cameras becoming increasingly common.

5G networks will also accelerate adoption through faster speeds , greater capacity and ultra-low latency enabled by changes to operator’s core networks. Whereas most functions are currently deployed in the core, virtualisation and software defined software will allow these to be moved around the network, closer to the customer.

Qualcomm’s role in this shift is through the creation of AI-enabled components and 5G modems used by the world’s leading smartphone and device manufacutrers.

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