Accenture opens Perth innovation hub
There are more than 100 Accen...
Global professional services and consulting company Accenture just opened a brand new innovation hub in Perth, Australia.
There are more than 100 Accenture innovation hubs around the world, all geared towards helping local companies get more from their investments in digital technology, be that sustainability returns, greater efficiency, or new capabilities.
The Perth location is the latest in Australia, alongside ones in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, and will primarily focus on serving the interests of Accenture's local clients in the mining and energy industries. The hub is, according to Accenture, designed to help these companies address the challenges and opportunities of digitalization. These include improving sustainability, cybersecurity, health, safety and productivity of workers, and the performance of machines.
“The new hub delivers innovation to our clients’ doorsteps here in Australia,” said Bob Easton, chairman of Accenture in Australia and New Zealand. “We invest locally and leverage Accenture’s global capabilities to develop innovation that puts Australia on a world stage.”
“With this new innovation hub, we are helping raise the innovation profile of Western Australia and Australia overall,” said Ann Burns, who leads Accenture’s Resources sector in Australia and New Zealand. “We believe that the Western Australian energy and mining sectors can become world leaders in digitalization. Crucial to this is a focus on what we refer to as ‘triple zero’: ideas, design and technologies that help achieve zero harm to workers and machines, zero loss across the value chain, and zero waste for sustainability.”
Jean-Marc Ollagnier, group chief executive of Accenture Resources, said, “The energy transition, circular economy, and sustainability provide opportunities to change business models, improve operations, and attract and retain talent. At the innovation hub, we will help clients apply digital technologies to create value across their enterprises.”
Located at the Exchange Tower, 2 The Esplanade, the innovation hub has been designed to host sessions that go from developing an idea to building a prototype and planning how to deploy the full solution. It includes a Liquid Studio, where clients can rapidly develop prototypes; a new design studio from Fjord, Accenture Interactive’s design and innovation consultancy; and a MakerLab space for 3D printing.
Google AI Designs Next-Gen Chips In Under 6 Hours
In a Google-Nature paper published on Wednesday, the company announced that AI will be able to design chips in less than six hours. Humans currently take months to design and layout the intricate chip wiring. Although the tech giant has been working in silence on the technology for years, this is the first time that AI-optimised chips have hit the mainstream—and that the company will sell the result as a commercial product.
“Our method has been used in production to design the next generation of Google TPU (tensor processing unit chips)”, the paper’s authors, Azalea Mirhoseini and Anna Goldie wrote. The TPU v4 chips are the fastest Google system ever launched. “If you’re trying to train a large AI/ML system, and you’re using Google’s TensorFlow, this will be a big deal”, said Jack Gold, President and Principal Analyst at J.Gold Associates.
Training the Algorithm
In a process called reinforcement learning, Google engineers used a set of 10,000 chip floor plans to train the AI. Each example chip was assigned a score of sorts based on its efficiency and power usage, which the algorithm then used to distinguish between “good” and “bad” layouts. The more layouts it examines, the better it can generate versions of its own.
Designing floor plans, or the optimal layouts for a chip’s sub-systems, takes intense human effort. Yet floorplanning is similar to an elaborate game. It has rules, patterns, and logic. In fact, just like chess or Go, it’s the ideal task for machine learning. Machines, after all, don’t follow the same constraints or in-built conditions that humans do; they follow logic, not preconception of what a chip should look like. And this has allowed AI to optimise the latest chips in a way we never could.
As a result, AI-generated layouts look quite different to what a human would design. Instead of being neat and ordered, they look slightly more haphazard. Blurred photos of the carefully guarded chip designs show a slightly more chaotic wiring layout—but no one is questioning its efficiency. In fact, Google is starting to evaluate how it could use AI in architecture exploration and other cognitively intense tasks.
Major Implications for the Semiconductor Sector
Part of what’s impressive about Google’s breakthrough is that it could throw Moore’s Law, the axion that the number of transistors on a chip doubles every five years, out the window. The physical difficulty of squeezing more CPUs, GPUs, and memory on tiny silicon die will still exist, but AI optimisation may help speed up chip performance.
Any chance that AI can help speed up current chip production is welcome news. Though the U.S. Senate recently passed a US$52bn bill to supercharge domestic semiconductor supply chains, its largest tech firms remain far behind. According to Holger Mueller, principal analyst at Constellation Research, “the faster and cheaper AI will win in business and government, including with the military”.
All in all, AI chip optimisation could allow Google to pull ahead of its competitors such as AWS and Microsoft. And if we can speed up workflows, design better chips, and use humans to solve more complex, fluid, wicked problems, that’s a win—for the tech world and for society.