Huawei is Betting on Mobile Phones as Intelligent Machines

What is the future of mobile phones, the AI inside, new and better cameras, Full HD or 4K screens, the answer is really easy – all of it. We talked about the future of mobile phones with Matej Podobnik, Head of Communications, CEE&Nordic Regional Division Huawei.

“At Huawei, we believe that innovation in the field of AI should provide answers to the most frustrating pain points that consumers have been pointing out to us over the years – phones slowing down as they age, requiring a better picture quality and a short lived battery,” according to Podobnik.

New smartphones on market are coming with AI chip. What does it mean for the customers?

Today, there is little doubt that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will and is bringing a major change and disruption to our everyday lives, to business, and to technology in general. According to International Data Corporation’s (IDC) whitepaper (“Mobile AI and the Future of Intelligent Devices”), AI stands on the brink of the next big technological revolution that will fundamentally change society for the better. IDC postulates that among the applications and features that will benefit first from on-device AI are virtual digital assistants, augmented reality, well-being and healthcare and cameras, for instance.

Speaking of cameras, just look at our latest flagship, Huawei Mate 10 Pro, for instance - already today. Our “intelligent machine” as we like to call it, is equipped with Kirin 970 - an auxiliary computing unit based on neural network architecture and adapted to support artificial intelligence. With its’ AI-powered photography, it helps even people like me, who are helpless when it comes to smartphone photography, capture “professional-looking” photographs. It does so with the phone’s AI-powered Real-Time Scene and Object Recognition, which automatically chooses camera settings based on the object and scene. But it doesn’t stop there – AI-powered camera zoom, AI-powered battery management so that the battery lasts for up to 2 days, AI-powered speed that enables the born-fast phone also to stay fast, even after 18 months of use and improved call quality. These are just some of the features we are proud of, where AI already plays a prominent role in our Mate 10 Pro.

You see, at Huawei, we believe that innovation in the field of AI should provide answers to the most frustrating pain points that consumers have been pointing out to us over the years – phones slowing down as they age, requiring a better picture quality and a short lived battery. These are the questions that almost 80,000 Huawei employees who work in R&D try to answer on a daily basis and what pushes us to innovate even further, with our consumers in mind.

At the moment AI chips are only in flagship models from Huawei and Apple. What do you think when they will also be in midrange mobile phones?

After decades of learning and exploration, AI development enters a brand-new era. The research area of AI has extended to fields such as natural language processing, pattern recognition, image recognition, data mining, machine learning, smart interface technology and smart information processing. Some industry opinions maintain that in 10 to 15 years AI will catch up with the average human intelligence. But at present achieving AI, application on smartphones is already a milestone and breakthrough in itself. We estimate that in 2 or 3 years AI ecology will come into shape and practical AI applications will be popularized.

IDC estimates that by 2021, over 60% of the world's population will own a smartphone. It is the most widely adopted consumer electronic device and the default platform for mass AI adoption. Thanks to AI, new, advanced applications will emerge. With dedicated AI chipsets, mobile devices will have better knowledge of the user and deliver automated personalized services and experiences. According to IDC, AI capabilities, from less demanding machine learning algorithms (e.g., predictive text, automated calendar entries based on content from emails), to dedicated AI chipsets and advanced artificial neural networks and deep learning (e.g., identifying people and other elements in a photo), will be available in most smartphones sold in the coming years.

In the future, it is expected that AI chips will be in a tablet but also in wearable devices and computers regardless it is desktop or laptop. When do you think that this changes will come?

In general, AI is still at a primary stage, but soon we will probably see this development changing to fast track and reveal its value in all fields. At present, many technical issues have yet to be addressed and that presents Huawei with opportunities as well as challenges. New developments in AI require joint effort across the entire value chain, involving tens of millions of developers, and the experience and feedback of hundreds of millions of users. However, we estimate that next couple of years will bring huge AI ecosystem development and changes in industry.

When Huawei started AI in new Mate 10 devices what was the main goal for that huge change because Mate 10 is the first device from Huawei with AI chip inside?

As stated before, nowadays our users dedicate a lot of attention to fast performance, battery life, compact design, to just name a few. And at Huawei we are dedicated to fulfilling our customers’ needs through innovation. To meet these expectation, we are putting a lot of effort into research and development that will change the industry and lead the innovations. Just for an illustration, with a $45BN investment into R&D over the past 10 years, Huawei ranked #9 in Global R&D investment in 2016.

The Kirin 970 on our Mate 10 Pro is the world’s first artificial intelligence processor for smartphones. It is equipped with a dedicated Neural Network Processing Unit which supports tasks related to machine learning and artificial intelligence. In this way, we are pursuing a mobile AI strategy that utilizes both powerful cloud computing and data resources, and the ability to process information on the device in a fast, personalized, and private way, thanks to the fact that the data never leaves the phone. Mobile AI (On-Device AI + Cloud AI) enables smart devices to switch into intelligent devices by end-to-end capabilities that support coordinated development of chips, devices, and the cloud. While working on On-Device AI the ultimate goal was to provide a significantly better user experience. On-Device AI is able to fully leverage the capabilities and value of devices while making the most of the massive amount of information, services, and strong computing capabilities brought about by big data and cloud. By extensively integrating smart devices with the cloud and big data, we believe that On-Device AI will continue to advance the intelligent evolution of devices.

Our region is oriented both on flagship and midrange devices regardless the economic situation. What does it mean for the Huawei in the smartphone market?

At Huawei, we are committed to bringing the latest technology and offering the best products to consumers. We constantly work to deliver best solutions in each mobile phones range adequate to users’ needs. That is why for example for Mate series in our region we introduced Mate 10 Pro the world’s first device with AI processor built-in, with a wonderful 6-inch OLED FullView screen packed in a 18:9 slim, bezel-less body and an Intelligent Leica Dual Camera that will fulfil the needs of even the most demanding users. As well as we launched Mate 10 lite with a 5.9-inch 18:9 screen, minimal bezel and 4 cameras. It is our hope and desire that we will create an extraordinary experience for consumers in with our products both in high range and midrange devices. Huawei various lite models sales success confirms that our customers value good smartphones at attractive prices. From P8 lite, through P9 lite, P9 lite 2017 and P10 lite we see the need for midrange smartphones that offers high solutions. That is why it is very important for us that each P-Series flagship has its equivalent in the "lite" line and now also Mate series has its Lite. This way, everyone can find the right smartphone for them.

Can you compare customers in Croatia and other regional and European countries?

CEE and Nordic Region consists of 26 countries. Every country has a different culture, language and consumers’ habits and we respect and value this diversity. We work hard to adjust our activities in each market, we have experts in every country that are responsible for identifying each market’s needs and this approach allows us to develop ourselves together with each of those markets.

In Huawei we believe that focusing on Central and Eastern Europe can be one-time opportunity for us to meet with great experts from this part of the world. This Region is developing very fast and our key focus is to have a big contribution into this development.

In 2022, the number of monthly active smartphone users in Croatia is projected to reach 2.69 million individuals. This would be an increase of approximately 580,000 new users from 2.11 million users in 2015. At the same time mobile services market is growing extremely fast and we as Huawei want to be a part of this in Croatia as well.

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