SKT adopts Xilinx’s neural processing unit to boost AI

By Song Su-hyun
  • Published : Aug 16, 2018 - 16:49
  • Updated : Aug 17, 2018 - 14:30

SK Telecom, South Korea’s biggest mobile carrier, has deployed US chipmaker Xilinx’s neural processing units to accelerate its artificial intelligence processing speed and performance by fivefold, the two companies announced Thursday.

Known as FPGAs or field-programmable gate arrays, the integrated circuits based on latest deep learning techniques are now deployed at the mobile carrier’s data center and are running its automatic speech-recognition application to accelerate AI speaker NUGU.

SKT said it has improved the automatic speech recognition application by replacing existing GPUs with the FPGAs.

This is the first commercial adoption of FPGA accelerators in the AI domain for large-scale data centers in South Korea, according to the Silicon Valley-based Xilinx.

SKT announced in June that the telecom firm has developed the AI acceleration program AIX.

Implementation of Xilinx’s FPGAs with AIX improves operations of the data center and AI processing in a cost effective manner, said Lee Kang-won, senior vice president at software research and development center at SKT.

“By designing our solution based on the Xilinx KCU1500 board and our own bitstream image, we have developed a cost-effective, high performance application,” said Lee said. 

From left: Ramine Roane, vice president, product planning & marketing at Xilinx, Lee Kwang-won, senior vice president at SK Telecom, David Ahn, director of Xilinx Korea. (Xilinx)

SKT doesn’t need to build additional servers for the data center by implanting the Xilinx FPGA add-in cards.

“Congestion problems in data processing will be eased in the short term, while making the response time of the AI speaker shorter and shorter for NUGU users,” Lee said. “And we are also planning to apply the solution to our surveillance and connected vehicle platforms.”

“The base of NUGU users is rapidly growing with portable and in-car versions,” said Ramine Roane, vice president of product planning and marketing at Xilinx. “SKT and Xilinx collaboration on AI acceleration using the latest deep learning techniques will maintain leadership, and our upcoming project will further boost data centers’ AI acceleration.” 

Ramine Roane, vice president of product planning & marketing at Xilinx, speaks durnig a press conference on Thursday. (Xilinx)

SKT has been collaborating with Xilinx for two years, and David Ahn, director of Xilinx Korea, said he expected the partnership to continue to expand.

“Both companies could work together on connected car platforms like SKT’s Smart Fleet, and Xilinx is also interested in cooperating in some of the storage business by SK hynix,” Ahn said. (