Syntiant - Redefining AI
A true entrepreneur and visionary in heart, Kurt Busch is a well-known name in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) industry today. As the CEO of Syntiant Corp, a provider of deep learning solutions making edge AI a reality for always-on applications, he has created a niche for himself. Kurt has extensive experience in product development, having driven the successful launch of new products, ranging from SaaS and semiconductors for telecom and broadcast video to consumer electronics and data center systems. A global team builder, leader and visionary driving a culture of innovation, this technology enthusiast speaks on array of topics. Excerpts from the interview:
Conception of Syntiant
Observes Kurt that he realized the enormous market opportunity and set out to bring voice interfaces to any device way back in 2017 when his son gave him this idea. “That’s when I recruited my three co-founders and bootstrapped initial funding for the company. Turning to family and friends, we raised an initial $1 million and after ten months of constant pitches – with several rejections every week, we convinced Intel Capital to lead our Series A round in October 2017.” Since then, the company has raised $65 million in funding and has expanded its products to include AI interfaces for always-on sensor and imaging applications as well.
Neural Decision Processors™: As a leader in delivering end-to-end deep learning solutions for always-on applications, the flagship product combines purpose-built silicon with an edge-optimized data platform and training pipeline. “We merge deep learning with semiconductor design to produce ultra-low-power, high performance Neural Decision Processors™ for always-on voice, sensor, audio and image edge AI applications across a wide range of consumer and industrial use cases, from earbuds to automobiles. These include: NDP100 and NDP101- the first and only deep learning solution to enable always-on voice at microwatt power levels, NDP102- that serves as a powerful for sensor processing and the NDP200 – the first chip designed for vision processing that can provide highly accurate inference at under 1mW.
TensorFlow: Using at-memory compute and built-in standard CMOS processes, Syntiant devices directly process neural network layers from platforms such as: TensorFlow without the need for any secondary compilers to shorten time to market and offer unprecedented performance for solutions that require under 1mW power consumption. Syntiant provides customers with low-cost, low latency, end-to-end solutions that quickly deliver production grade deep learning models in a variety of domains.
Medical applications: For medical applications such as: diagnostics and remote patient monitoring, the deep learning technology serves as a powerful AI interface for next-generation devices. “Our Neural Decision Processors™ (NDPs) also can serve as an always-on gatekeeper, providing significant classification of events, allowing larger systems to remain dormant until absolutely needed.”
The AI Journey
Noting that his first AI journey began in 1990, Kurt notes that at the time, they did not have the key mechanisms for an AI solution that are readily available today such as compute power, the access to vast amounts of data, and a framework like TensorFlow. “I guess we were a little ahead of the times back then. But we knew AI was the future. Artificial intelligence has come a long way, more so in recent years, and we truly are in the beginnings of a golden age of AI with a vast number of tools at our fingertips that make AI processing possible today.”
Mitigating Risks involved in AI
Advances in AI have the potential to improve outcomes and reduce costs practically everywhere and across every industry. Deep learning interfaces between the physical and digital world will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the greater good, opines Kurt. He stresses on the need for public and private organizations to collaborate and address the various challenges associated with AI. “Since AI is inevitable and will impact everyone, it’s vital that these discussions be open to all – from academics to private citizens. Nonprofit organizations like the Partnership on AI (PAI) are working to bring together all the resources dedicated to positive AI outcomes for people and society.”
“New companies must develop truly exceptional products since it’s rare for anyone is going to buy from a start-up. They cannot be 10 or 20 percent better in a lot of attributes. They must be 1000 percent better and do something simply not possible before. Below are my three core values that have guided me through my career exceptionalism, respect and gratitude.
The Success Mantra
“One of our core values and key learnings is built around exceptionalism” says Kurt. He stresses on the need to build a truly exceptional product or service which remains the foundation for any company’s growth and success. “Second, show gratitude for the community that helps us achieve our goals. Team building based on collaboration is necessary to develop, finetune and support that growth.”
“There is a global movement to democratize AI, making it more accessible to everyone.” Says the techie who is focusing on making edge AI a reality through deployment of its deep learning solutions. As part of this effort, the company recently unveiled its TinyML Development Board, an easy-to-use developer kit aimed at both technical and non-technical users for building machine learning-powered applications in smart products, such as speech commands, wake word detection, acoustic event detection and other sensor use cases.