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BusinessDay: AI at your fingertips - the future of on-device intelligence

Apple and Samsung are pioneering the integration of artificial intelligence into smartphones.

By Johan Steyn, 24 January 2024

The landscape of computing has witnessed a paradigm shift in recent years, moving away from centralised cloud-based systems to a more distributed framework known as edge computing. This transition is characterised by bringing computation and data storage closer to where data is generated, reducing latency and bandwidth usage. A pivotal aspect of this shift is the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) at the edge, a trend that giants such as Apple and Samsung are pioneering on smartphones.

Apple’s approach to edge computing is evident in its recent AI initiatives and hardware innovations. The company has transitioned to creating its own silicon chips, optimised for AI tasks. These chips enable more efficient on-device processing, aligning with the principles of edge computing. Apple’s strategy reflects a focus on enhancing user privacy and device performance, as seen in its latest products that leverage AI for various functions while ensuring that data processing occurs locally on the device.

Samsung’s recent Galaxy S24 series launch marked a significant milestone on its AI journey. The new Galaxy AI concept demonstrates Samsung’s commitment to integrating AI into its devices. This integration offers advanced features such as AI-driven photo editing and real-time language translation. Samsung’s Galaxy AI initiative aligns with edge computing by ensuring that data remains on the device, thus enhancing personalisation and privacy.

Apple and Samsung are embracing AI in edge computing, but their approaches have unique nuances. Apple’s focus has been on creating a seamless ecosystem with its hardware and software, thus providing an integrated user experience. Samsung is leveraging its partnership with Google Cloud to enhance the AI capabilities of its devices, focusing on practical, user-centric AI applications. These strategies, while different, underline the importance both companies place on making AI more accessible and useful at the edge.

From a market perspective, this shift is likely to set new standards in smartphone design and functionality. Consumers will increasingly expect their devices to handle complex tasks independently, without cloud support. This will drive innovation in the tech industry, pushing manufacturers to develop more advanced hardware capable of supporting on-device AI.

Vast potential

Despite the numerous advantages, the integration of AI at the edge is not without challenges. One of the primary concerns is the hardware limitation, as AI processing requires powerful computing capabilities, which can strain device resources such as battery life. Ensuring data privacy and security is another critical issue, as devices will store more sensitive data locally.

The potential for AI in edge computing is vast. The advent of 5G technology is expected to further boost the capabilities of edge devices, enabling faster data transmission and more sophisticated on-device AI applications. The future may see new use cases emerging beyond smartphones, in areas such as healthcare, automotive, and smart cities.

The integration of AI at the edge marks a significant milestone in the evolution of computing and AI. Companies such as Apple and Samsung are at the forefront of this revolution, driving change that extends beyond the technology industry. As this technology continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see how it reshapes our interaction with devices and redefines the boundaries of what is possible in a connected world. The era of edge AI is just beginning, and its full potential has yet to be realised.


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