May 17, 2020

Nine in 10 businesses to implement RPA by 2020

RPA
Robotic process automation
Survey
Report
Jonathan Dyble
2 min
Automation
A new report from ISG has revealed that 92% of companies are aiming to adopt robotic process automation (RPA) by 2020 in the aim increasing operational...

A new report from ISG has revealed that 92% of companies are aiming to adopt robotic process automation (RPA) by 2020 in the aim increasing operational efficiencies.

According to the survey of 500 European companies, as conducted by ISG, RPA budgets have increased by an average of 9% during the past 12 months, whilst investment into consultancy and IT services has also increased.

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“Robotic process automation is delivering improved outcomes for enterprises across Europe, and our research shows many more businesses will be taking advantage of the technology by 2020 as adoption accelerates,” said ISG partner Andreas Lueth.

54% of respondents are expecting to reach an advanced stage of implementation by the date in question – double the current levels of 27%.

However, despite the increase in uptake, companies need to be wary about the business prospects when adopting RPA.

“This technology has the potential to revolutionise customer service and back-office functions alike, but organisations should be wary of falling into the RPA trap,” Leuth continued. “The decision to deploy RPA should be treated as a strategic business initiative, with defined objectives and measures. Without this, the chance of failure is high.”

In the way of concerns, 42% cited security as the highest obstacle to implementing RPA, whilst restricted budgets and a resistance to change are also expected to stump the use RPA.

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Jun 11, 2021

Google AI Designs Next-Gen Chips In Under 6 Hours

Google
AI
Manufacturing
semiconductor
3 min
Google AI’s deep reinforcement learning algorithms can optimise chip floor plans exponentially faster than their human counterparts

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. 

 

 

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