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Embedded Tech Continues COVID-19 Battle

Article-Embedded Tech Continues COVID-19 Battle

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Lots to learn at Arm DevSummit, not least of which was the continuing development of clever embedded COVID-19 hardware and software tech.

If there is one processor IP company that dominates the embedded hardware and software space, it’s Arm. The company’s ecosystem is equally as large. That’s why their DevSummit (formerly TechCon) is always worth a visit. This year’s virtual event was no disappointment.

It’s hardly a coincidence that the kick-off keynote for the summit was an interview on Arm’s future roadmap between Simon Segers and NVIDIA's Jensen Haung. Nvidia is currently in the process of acquiring most of Arm’s assets from its current owner, SoftBank.

Both companies are continuing the development of artificial intelligence (AI systems). While Arm has a dominant presence in the embedded, low-power smartphone space, it has worked hard in recent years to expand into the data center space. Nvidia is already a major player in that arena.

Among the many keynote presentations were several technical sessions on hardware and software infrastructure development centered around the Arm Neoverse platform. Billed as a foundation for the cloud to edge infrastructure computing, Neoverse is the company’s big expansion into the data center to address high-performance computing (HPC), cloud, and machine learning workloads.

This new platform is needed to help cloud infrastructure data centers deal with the demands of a trillion intelligent IoT devices. Neoverse should help software developers more easily program for key segments of the market including hyper-scale/cloud computing, HPC, 5G, and the edge.

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Neoverse N2 cloud to edge connectivity.

There were no shortages of interesting applications at the summit. But that ones that seemed especially relevant to the global landscape at the moment were those focused on COVID-19. For example, Dr. Greg Bowman, director of Folding@home, describes how citizens scientists created an Exoscale computer to combat COVID-19. During his session, he revealed that more than a million people have donated computing cycles from their smartphones and similar devices to help analyze proteins and find a vaccine for COVID-19. Folding@home is a distributed computing project that borrows idle CPU and GPU cycles from ordinary people to help scientists develop new therapeutics for a variety of diseases by the means of simulating protein dynamics. Anyone can download the software, which runs in the background sipping unused cycles to help run its simulations.

Another announcement on the COVID tech front came from Segars opening keynote. He described how Arm-powered AI is being used to spot COVID-19 symptoms based on images of lungs. Specifically, these processors are being used to build a COVID-Net for embedded devices. In March of this year, a team from DarwinAI collaborated with researchers at the University of Waterloo’s VIP Lab to develop COVID-Net, which is a convolutional neural network for COVID-19 detection via chest radiography. COVID-Net is an open-source project on GitHub.

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Arm’s CEO Simon Segars shares COVID-Net progress.

There was even a technical session for teens using AI in the COVID-19 Global Hackathon. In May of this year, bright young minds from all over the world participated virtually to hack the COVID-19 crisis at the Teens in AI COVID-19 Global Hackathon. Arm’s Director of AI Ecosystem, Kate Kallot, and Gen Arm 2Z ambassador Samaira Mehta were among the judges. Two of these teams – All-In and HopefulHome – were selected to share their hacks at the summit.

The first one was the winner of the hackathon. All-In developed a speech-to-text application for education – especially in poor countries. A teacher’s lesson would be translated into a text transcript to be sent to the students. The app really reduces the size of video and audio files, supplying something that is very lightweight and easy to transmit in areas where connectivity is limited.

The second outstanding hack is called HopefulHome. This team addressed the issue of domestic violence. Their app was hidden behind the calculator button on the phone, and it had information about domestic abuse. You could also set up panic buttons to be able to reach emergency contacts and to stay informed on organizations that can help you during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Another notable mention was a session on how to help the world build back smarter in a post-COVID-19 world. Digital technology can be used to transform the delivery of life-saving health supplies, but without proper tools in place, millions will suffer from preventable causes. Arm is working with Simprints to leverage technology to build, integrate, and deploy global health technology solutions and to make sure that no one was left behind after the pandemic.

Simprints’ Christine Kim explained how the company has used facial and fingerprint recognition to develop an application for creating electronic records for individuals that otherwise might slip through the grid. For example, in Bangladesh, maternal health visits during pregnancy increased by 38% while in Malawi health workers were able to find the pre-existing health records for HIV patients 81 percent of the time, something that only occurred 50 percent of the time before. Simprints also developed a cash voucher system for refugees from Boko Haram.

There were plenty of other valuable announcements at the summit, as well as technical sessions covering all aspects of embedded development. It’s worth a visit to the summit website to see the latest advancements in embedded tech.

John Blyler is a Design News senior editor, covering the electronics and advanced manufacturing spaces. With a BS in Engineering Physics and an MS in Electrical Engineering, he has years of hardware-software-network systems experience as an editor and engineer within the advanced manufacturing, IoT and semiconductor industries. John has co-authored books related to system engineering and electronics for IEEE, Wiley, and Elsevier.

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