ARM's latest CPUs are ready for an AI-powered future

'DynamIQ' technology is the next step beyond 'big.Little' multicore CPUs.


ARM processor technology already powers many of the devices you use every day, and now the company is showing off its plans for the future with DynamIQ. Aimed squarely at pushing the artificial intelligence and machine learning systems we're expecting to see in cars, phones, gaming consoles and everything else, it's what the company claims is an evolution on the existing "big.Little" technology.

Originally unveiled in 2011, that design allowed for multicore CPU designs with powerful, power-hungry chips to do the heavy lifting tethered to smaller, low-power chips that could handle background processing when a device is idle. It's why your phone can edit HD or even 4K video at one moment before sleeping throughout the night without losing all of the battery's charge. DynamIQ lays out a strategy for processors that combine cores specifically designed for whatever task is needed.

That could make for a 1+3 (quad-core) or 1+7 (octacore) layout, where each individual core has its own performance and power characteristics. The claim it's making is that this setup can improve responsiveness for AI, with a 50x boost in AI performance over the next 3-5 years, and 10x between the (still Cortex-A9) CPU and specialized "accelerator hardware." That matters, especially when one of these chips is using machine learning to drive your car, scanning the road ahead for potential hazards.

Of course, it also could be extremely profitable for ARM and the companies that build on its technology (like Qualcomm, NVIDIA, Samsung, Apple and even Intel), as it claims that after shipping over 50 billion ARM-based chips between 2013 and 2017, it projects the world will buy over 100 billion by 2021.