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November 28, 2018

Qualcomm Launches AI Investment Fund

George Leopold

(Alexander Supertramp/Shutterstock)

Wireless chip leader Qualcomm Inc. announced a $100 million investment fund focused on AI startups developing chip and connectivity technologies for emerging applications like machine learning platforms and autonomous vehicles.

As it shifts from wireless chip sets for mobile phones to a range of emerging AI applications, San Diego-based Qualcomm’s (NASDAQ: QCOM) investment arm is identifying startups that can accelerate the transition of its low-power processor technology to the network edge. The initiative dovetails with the wireless chip vendors 5G networking efforts that seek to connect devices while adding local processing. Those capabilities can then be linked to “edge clouds,” the chip maker said Wednesday (Nov. 28).

“We strongly believe intelligence is moving from the cloud to the edge,” said Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf. “Qualcomm’s AI strategy couples leading 5G connectivity with our R&D, fueling AI….”

Among Qualcomm Venture’s early funding round announced this week was the object recognition startup AnyVision. The Israeli company uses on-chip AI capabilities to reduce data movement, a feature Qualcomm said can help mitigate data privacy concerns.

AnyVision is among several early-stage AI investments by Qualcomm. Others include San Diego-based Brain Corp., autopilot developer Cruise Automation and the Chinese machine vision and deep learning startup SenseTime.

“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 [and machine learning] platforms across different verticals,” added Quinn Li, senior vice president of Qualcomm Ventures.

Qualcomm joins a growing list of chip makers betting that the larger data pipeline provided by 5G technology and the proliferation of edge devices will allow them to sell more AI-based devices for applications ranging from autonomous vehicles to the Internet of Things. All will require low-power processing, among the wireless chip maker’s key technologies.

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