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China tech

Baidu and Samsung team up for mass production of AI chip

The Baidu Kunlun chip will cut reliance on foreign-made chips

A Samsung chip plant outside of Seoul: The South Korean group depends on Japanese supplies such as photoresist. (Photo courtesy of the company)

BEIJING - Chinese internet powerhouse Baidu announced Wednesday that it has established a partnership with Samsung Electronics for its first cloud-to-edge artificial intelligence chip Baidu Kunlun, which has been developed and is slated for mass production early next year.

This makes Baidu the second Chinese internet company to launch their in-house developed chips. Alibaba Group Holding debuted its Hanguang 800 in September and has applied it internally in Alibaba's business operations, especially in product search and automatic translation functions on e-commerce sites, personalized recommendations, advertising and intelligent customer services.

In the first foundry partnership between the two, Baidu will provide advanced AI platforms to maximize the performance of AI, while Samsung will apply its foundry manufacturing technologies to high-performance computing chips, which are dedicated to edge computing as well as cloud computing, an area in which Baidu has been trying to catch up with its local rivals including Alibaba and Tencent Holdings.

The Kunlun chip will be built based on Baidu's advanced XPU, which is a neural processor architecture Baidu independently developed for cloud, edge, and AI scenarios. The chip will be made with Samsung's 14-nanometer fabrication technology and Interposer-Cube package solution, Samsung said.

Baidu unveiled China's first cloud-to-edge AI chip, Kunlun, in July 2018, including a training chip 818-300 and an inference chip 818-100. In addition, the new chip allows Baidu's pre-training natural language processing model named Ernie to infer three times faster than a traditional graphics processing unit or field-programmable gate array model.

Baidu has already begun to work with FPGA chips designed for deep learning since 2011. After the release of Kunlun last year, the Chinese tech giant has joined the ranks of Google, Nvidia, Intel, and many other tech companies that manufacture processors for AI.

The ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China has shone a light on China's chip dependence on foreign technologies. Local companies including Huawei, which is in the crosshairs of the Sino-U.S. trade spat, Alibaba, and now Baidu have all been working on their substitutes for exported chips.

KrASIA is a digital media company focused on technology-driven businesses and trends across the Asia-Pacific region. It is part of 36Kr, a tech news portal based in Beijing. Nikkei has a minority stake in 36Kr.

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