[THE INVESTOR] Memory chip giant Samsung Electronics has invested in a Chinese artificial intelligence technology developer as part of its efforts to catch up in the intensifying global race for AI platforms and devices, according to industry sources on Oct. 22.
In August, Samsung made a significant investment in DeePhi Tech, a Tsinghua-based startup with deep learning technologies, a source told The Korea Herald.
“Samsung made quite a large investment in DeePhi Tech, which a group of Korean developers who met the startup’s officials found surprising,” the source said.
“Samsung appears to have made considerable investment in the Chinese company, in line with the Chinese government’s move to foster homegrown AI tech firms. The investment could have been made out of political consideration, not necessarily over the company’s technological prowess.”
It is the second investment Samsung has made in foreign AI tech startups following a US$30 million investment in the UK-based Graphcore last October.
Samsung is listed as one of the partner businesses on DeePhi Tech’s homepage, along with China’s fabless chipmaker Mediatek, US fabless Xilinx and cloud service provider Amazon Web Services.
DeePhi Tech is a deep learning solution developer that was founded in 2016 by four co-founders who graduated from Tsinghua University and Stanford University.
The company draw attention from tech giants like Samsung due to its neural network compression technology and neural network hardware architecture.
SK Telecom, a Korean mobile carrier that is also passionate about its emerging AI business, had also offered an investment to the Chinese startup this summer, but the company turned down the offer, the source said.
DeePhi Tech offers the Deep Neural Network Development Kit, known as DNNDK, which is a deep learning software development kit designed as an integrated framework that aims to simplify and accelerate deep learning applications.
Samsung is reportedly interested in the company’s neural network-based AI chipsets for portable devices, which allow instantaneous speech recognition, neural language processing and other recognition tasks on smartphones.
Such AI chipsets, known as neural processing units, or NPUs, are at the height of market attention as a means to widen the use of AI programs, especially in smartphones.
On Oct. 19, Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology, a control tower for future technologies, held a two-day seminar on the development of AI technologies by inviting globally renowned scholars, as part of the ongoing move.
“Many Samsung units are accelerating research on the development of AI at their own level,” said Yoo Hoi-joon, a professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Technology.
Samsung and DeePhi were not immediately available for comments on Oct. 22. However, a Samsung official said that the latest investment in the Chinese firm may be part of the company’s direction toward increasing investments in AI-related startups around the world.
By Song Su-hyun/The Korea Herald (firstname.lastname@example.org)