Saturday, July 20, 2024

Mediatek betting big on Generative AI, 5G in latest microchips

Semiconductor company MediaTek held its annual media briefing last June 20 where it provided updates on their latest microchip upgrades and projected performance.

This year, the company focused the briefing on the market opportunities created by promising technologies such as generative Artificial Intelligence (gen AI) and 5G.

Like many microchip companies, MediaTek aims to take full advantage of the demand for gen AI capabilities. In fact, Finbarr Moynihan, MediaTek’s vice president for corporate marketing, predicted that gen AI demand will drive growth across MediaTek’s chip markets, including smartphones, chromebooks, smart TVs, IOT devices, vehicles, and data centers.

“We think in the next couple of years, we’re going to hit that turning point, where all industries, all applications, all use cases are going to be impacted in some way or another by gen AI technology. I think it really is going to help drive significant growth for the semiconductor industry overall, both in terms of edge devices and in the cloud,” Moynihan said during the briefing.

With the smartphone chip market being MediaTek’s main revenue stream, the company highlighted the predicted market opportunities for smartphones with gen AI capabilities during the meeting.

The company began by pointing out that in 2023, smartphones with gen AI features only occupied 0.4% of the global smartphone market with less than 5 million units sold. Most of these units were also costlier premier and flagship units.

By 2027, however, MediaTek forecasted that smartphones with gen AI capabilities will take over 46% of the global smartphone market with more than 583.2 million units projected to be sold.

Additionally, gen AI features will be available across all smartphone price points, making this technology accessible to a wider consumer base.

Notably, as early as last year, MediaTek’s flagship and premium models for smartphone chips — the Dimensity 9300 and Dimensity 8300 — already enabled several phone models to run generative AI features.

The AI capabilities these chips currently support include the world’s first on-device dynamic image generation, prompt-based Q&A, text to music generation, AI-supported photo editing, and gen-AI enhanced streaming.

On top of enabling existing gen-AI features in smartphones, MediaTek has several innovations in progress to expand the accessibility of gen AI features to entry-level phones.

“We are continuing to enhance and develop our Neural Processing Units (NPUs) that will integrate into more and more products going forward. MediaTek has also developed some proprietary memory compression technology, which allows us to reduce the size of the models that are used,” Moniyan said.

He further explained: “The third area of innovation that is certainly something we are focused on but also something the whole industry is focused on is moving from large language models to smaller language models.

“I think what we will see over the next year or two is, instead of one very large language model to run everything, we may end up instead…[with] multiple smaller language models that are running on the device and they will be optimized for more specific scope and more specific applications.”

Besides the gains in the smartphone market, MediaTek reiterated that the rise of generative AI would also benefit their other markets.

For instance, developments are underway for their family of vehicle microchips, MediaTek Dimensity Auto, to enable these chips to support gen-AI capabilities.

Future gen-AI features they are working on encompass augmented reality driver information, enhanced AI assistants who can understand conversational intent, and in-car gen-AI entertainment options.

Moving on from gen AI, the second technology trend that MediaTek is determined to capitalize on is the steady growth of 5G communications. MediaTek expects 5G devices to experience significant growth this year, forecasting that from a 56% share in the global smartphone market in 2023, 5G devices will increase to 63% share in 2024.

Even the Philippine 5G market is predicted to strengthen. Chinlin Low, MediaTek’s technical account manager for Asia Pacific, reported that from 2022 to 2023, local operators experienced increased mobile data traffic.

Local operator Smart Communications, for example, showed a 95% increase in quarterly 5G data traffic in 2023 as compared to 2022, which could encourage the country’s operators to invest in 5G coverage expansion and 5G network enhancement.

Low said MediaTek is staying on top of developments in the 5G market to maximize this growing demand. Case in point, the company developed MediaTek T300, which is optimized for IOT devices that comply with the relatively recent 5G Reduced Capability (RedCap) standard.

The 5G RedCap standard provides guidelines for the production of IOT devices that do not necessitate the full capabilities of 5G. The MediaTek T300 is the world’s first single-die solution chip, which makes it extremely compact and highly-efficient to support the specific 5G capabilities required for various IoT use cases, including IoT edge devices, logistics, and video security.

Another 5G development that Low spotlighted was the advancement of 5G satellite connectivity. He described that currently, standard commercial devices that have satellite connectivity can only support low data applications, such as SMS or emergency services.

He shared, though, that MediaTek is already prototyping chips that will facilitate a better satellite connection and support higher data applications.

“In the future, our mission is to bring this satellite connectivity to enable a larger bandwidth and a larger throughput data application. For example, we aim to deliver voice, video, and podcast streaming over satellite.” Low asserted.

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