Qualcomm Reportedly Putting a Dedicated NPU Neural Processing Unit in Their Next SoCs

The US chip company Qualcomm has been moving its “artificial intelligence” research efforts more into the center of focus – which means Qualcomm has possibly been working on the integration of its neural technology into future SoCs (system on chips). The upcoming Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, which could probably come on the market as a Snapdragon 8150, gets for the first time a dedicated Neural Processing Unit (NPU) – similar to how Huawei is already using similar technology in their Kirin SoCs.

After Huawei has integrated a so-called Neural Processing Unit (NPU) with the Kirin 970 Octacore SoC introduced at the last IFA, Qualcomm is also looking to create a similar release sometime this year. According to our research, the US manufacturer will for the first time use a dedicated computing unit for AI tasks in one of its chips. So far, such tasks could be done easily by other parts of the SoC – in the future, this will be done by a specially developed computing unit.

Qualcomm employees’ LinkedIn profiles have continued to fine-tune the hardware design of the new high-end SoC in recent months to perfect the additional AI computing unit. The fact that this is a separate part of the system-on-chip design is confirmed by information from the employees, according to which, among other things, they worked on the routing of the data streams between CPU, NPU and main memory.

NPU relieves CPU and other parts of the SoC

Above all, the Neural Processing Unit should help to relieve the CPU and the other parts of the SoC when processing data from the field of AI functionality. Instead of having the analysis of image information or even voice queries done by the CPU or other processors of the SoC, they are shifted to the NPU for better performance. What functions are implemented on this basis, is currently still open, but the whole thing is likely to move in the usual range of other NPUs.

Qualcomm wants to offer the Snapdragon 855 and Snapdragon 8150 apparently for the first time in years in a special variant for use in cars. We encountered several times a so-called “SDM855AU” and this should distinguish appropriate adjustments for use in the automotive sector. However, these are still open. The production also takes place in this case in 7-nanometer scale.

It’s the first time that Qualcomm has re-launched a dedicated SoC for automaker integration following the launch of the Snapdragon 820 Automotive. However, given the growing importance of artificial intelligence and upcoming 5G mobile telephony technologies, this is only a logical step, given that there is likely to be demand in the future.

Kamil Anwar
Kamil is a certified MCITP, CCNA (W), CCNA (S) and a former British Computer Society Member with over 9 years of experience Configuring, Deploying and Managing Switches, Firewalls and Domain Controllers also an old-school still active on FreeNode.