Jon Peddie Research: Visual Processors and CNN - the next generation supercomputer

Posted: 09.12.17

TIBURON, CA - September 11, 2017 - Jon Peddie Research (JPR), the industry's research and consulting firm for graphics and multimedia, today released its latest 
quarterly report on the Visual Processing Unit (VPU) market.

New applications based on capturing high speed, high resolution images continue to emerge based on the steady increase in availability of processors with the capability to process them. The demands of these applications increase month by month as gadget designers and their customers come up with ever more sophisticated use cases ranging 
from the banal to the awe-inspiring. At the banal end of the spectrum, vision systems are finding their way into childrens' toys while at the other extreme truly inspiring work is under way in drone based land management to help alleviate the worst effects of climate change on our food supply.

The applications for VPUs ranges from super-smart prosumer cameras to automobile license readers at bridges and gateways, to airport security and nozzle monitoring of a satellite launching rocket. With high-resolution cameras being employed in every aspect 
of our lives, making autonomous vehicles of all types possible, drone surveillance, crop assessment affordable and reliable, and face recognition at ATMs a new normal in our lives, the demand for high-performance front-end processing of the myriad of image-processing functions has never been greater.

VPUs are at the crossroads of image-processing, convolutional neural nets (CNN),  machine intelligence, and the emerging augmented reality market. More than just an  image processing algorithm co-processor, and more like a powerful subsystem that can  take multiple streams of highspeed pixel data and feed a GPU for display, while simultaneously doing data analysis and extraction.

Figure 1: JPR - VPUs are at the center of advanced image processing, CNNs, and augmented reality

The VPU is a relatively new device but the field is already crowded with established companies bringing previous experience in DSP and GPU design to bear, as well as 
many startups. 

We have identified 38 companies that are making VPU capable processors using GPUs, DSPs, and dedicated engines. Companies such as Intel, TI, Nvidia, AMD, and Qualcomm, don't invest millions of dollars in R&D and acquisitions unless they see a big return. Therefore, no semiconductor, system builder, or software tool, or application developer 
can afford to ignore this emerging, perhaps explosive, market.

This issue summarizes technologies from two hardware companies and one software company, all of whom are focusing their efforts on vision processing using deep learning. 

Synopsys best known for CAD tools. We covered one application of Synopsys' CNN accelerator in a chip from Inuitive in an earlier issue and here we look at the broad range 
of their vision IP and developments since then.

ThinCI is a fabless semiconductor startup They are among the group of companies looking for a novel hardware architecture that can exploit the specific characteristics of DNN's to create a power and performance advantage.

Neurala is a software company with some hardware patents. Hardware without software 
is useless, and developments in deep learning architectures and techniques break trail for the hardware developments that will follow along. Neurala claims special experience and insight into deep learning systems 

Along with these reviews we also bring updates on activity at companies we have previously reviewed. Movidius, Intel and Cadence have all made significant announcements on business and technology fronts. We summarize these here.

JPR's quarterly VPU report provides the in-depth information needed to access opportunities, suppliers, and competitors.

JPR's new quarterly VPU service analyzes the suppliers, the technology, the processors, and the market opportunities. As robust as the market is, there will be consolidation through either failures or acquisitions, and we think there will be just a half dozen suppliers, three major companies, and three niche players by 2020.

Where will your supplier, company, or competitors be in 2020? JPR's VPU report can help assess those opportunities and threats.

About Jon Peddie Research
Jon Peddie Research is a technically oriented multimedia and graphics research and consulting firm. Based in Tiburon, California, JPR provides consulting, research, and other specialized services to technology companies in a variety of fields including graphics development, multimedia for professional applications and consumer electronics, high-end computing, and Internet-access product development. Jon Peddie's Market Watch is a quarterly report focused on the market activity of PC graphics controllers for notebook and desktop computing.

Robert Dow, Jon Peddie Research 
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