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AI comes of age at CES 2019

For several years now, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has served to herald the application of new technology in the latest crop of consumer gadgets. The 2018 exhibition was attended by 106,288 visitors eager not only to do business and learn what products they can expect in the market during the year, but to find out about cutting-edge technologies that are still in development.

Among the key themes of CES 2019 are machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), with 39 conference sessions across various tracks expected to discuss this topic. The reason is simple: artificial intelligence touches a wide variety of market segments, including robotics, fintech and digital money, automotive, and even marketing.

ML — the capability by which machines self-correct and refine tasks — and the broader AI have been in development for decades and have reached a point where they are about to initiate a revolutionary restructuring of business.

From monitoring and controlling the manufacturing floor to predicting trends for business decisions, smart applications will be made possible by AI’s ability to turn mountains of data that we are already generating into actionable insights. AI will take automation from simple repetitive tasks and progress it to complex processes, including those with variability.

This growing sophistication is possible with improving infrastructure, such as cloud-based tools. An example of this is the Microsoft Azure Machine Learning services that allow the use of automated ML to identify suitable algorithms and tune parameters, and seamlessly deploy to the cloud and the edge.

Arrow Electronics has already brought this level of cloud-based intelligence to consumer Internet of Things (IoT) products. For instance, Arrow’s SmartEverything board easily connects to multiple cloud providers to enable data analytics for decision making.

AI on edge

In the industrial environment, where a large number of sensors for predictive maintenance and machine condition monitoring contribute high data volume and velocity, and real-time decision-making requirements make it prohibitively expensive to stream all the data to the cloud, the case for AI at the edge is well known. However, in consumer products too, AI is reaching into cameras and smart speakers to avoid hauling large amounts of audio and video data into the cloud, decrease latency and address privacy issues. For instance, high-resolution cameras coupled with ML models for demographics like age, gender and mood, give retailers insights on consumers in their stores but raise privacy concerns if inferencing is not done at the edge.

AI at the edge is enabled by ML models that are trained in the cloud with large data sets but easily deployed to each device or gateway at the edge for inferencing. The computing resources that make this possible include specialized AI chips. Qualcomm, for instance, has several processors that can handle such workloads at the IoT node. Among the most powerful of such Qualcomm chips is the Snapdragon 845.

The system on chip (SoC) offers:

  • Spectra 280 image signal processor, which enables capture of up to 16 MP at 60 images per second,
  • Adreno 630 visual processing subsystem, which features room-scale 6DoF (degrees of freedom) positional tracking with simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM),
  • Adreno Foveation, which reduces the GPU’s workload by giving higher priority to image resolution within the user’s fixation point, and
  • Hexagon 685 DSP, which was designed specifically for on-device AI and ML, and efficiently handling image, voice and sensor data.

This year, eInfochips, an Arrow company, began offering a hardware development kit (HDK) based on the Snapdragon 845 mobile platform. The Eragon 845 HDK provides an open-frame solution that supports Android 8.0 and contains a processor card with Snapdragon 845, a mini-ITX carrier board, a 12V AC power adapter, battery and USB cable. It supports camera and display as optional accessories.

Another family of devices built for AI at the edge comes from NVIDIA. The company’s Jetson systems, including Jetson TX1, TX2 and AGX Xavier can all handle AI workloads. The Jetson TX2, which comes in three versions – TX2, TX2i and TX2 4GB – allows bigger, more complex deep neural networks than the TX1. Their latest module, the AGX Xavier, consumes 30 W to deliver 32 TOPS performance and finds use in particularly demanding AI applications, like handheld real-time DNA sequencing and industrial robots.

Interested in learning more?

For more information on this topic, or to get in touch with engineering specialist who can help answer any questions you might have, head to arrow.com

Engineering autonomy for machines

Your smartphone beeps on a Sunday afternoon and you put down your drink, tell your smart home assistant to pause the movie streaming to your TV and make for the door. It’s the burger and fries that you had ordered earlier. Delivered right to your doorstep by an autonomous mobile robot (AMR).

As you repair to the sofa and your movie, you give nary a thought about the autonomous processes that helped in making your burger order come together. No, you don’t dwell on how the wheat that went into baking the burger buns was farmed using autonomous tractors and combine harvesters, packaged using robotic machinery, and delivered to warehouses where AMRs helped move the inventory for a multinational retail chain. For you, it is humdrum that the restaurant where you placed your order was manned by robots collaborating with humans to flip your burgers and make final preparations for delivery.

This is not science fiction. While we were captivated by the pomp and show of self-driving cars, engineers went ahead and turned the scene above into reality.

That is why market research firms are predicting a bright future for autonomous machines. Technavio, for example, expects the global AMR market to grow at a CAGR of 24 percent from 2018 to 2022. The same firm has taken a closer look at the agriculture sector as well and forecast the global market for autonomous farm equipment to grow by over $62 billion during the 2019-to-2023 period.

And such developments are also the reason that the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2019 will feature at least 19 conference sessions on autonomous machines or robotics.

Future Present

If it still seems incredible that we should be standing at the edge of a future filled with autonomous machines doing our bidding and assisting us in jobs too difficult or tedious for consistent outcomes, then let us examine the products available today that make it possible for you to enjoy that Sunday afternoon hamburger.

Autonomous Farm Equipment: While your beef may come from well-fed cows whose behavior — reactions to hunger and disease — was monitored by vision-based AI using systems like those by Irish startup Cainthus, the wheat for the buns may have been farmed using autonomous tractors made by companies like John Deere. That company has announced this year a new plug-in electric and fully autonomous tractor, which allows farmers to groom their fields while laying out and retracting a 1 km onboard extension cord. The corded power delivery means lower costs over the company’s older autonomous model that uses lithium-ion batteries.

Autonomous Mobile Robots: AMR use is being piloted in warehouses as well as “last-mile delivery.” For instance, San Jose-based Fetch Robotics has a range of AMRs that use a combination of light detection and ranging (LiDAR) and 3D cameras to navigate unpredictable warehouse environments, adjusting routes in real-time to avoid obstacles. The company’s robots bring not just hardware but a cloud-based control system that uses a simple graphics interface to make them easy to deploy. This ease of deployment opens up the Robot-as-a-Service (RaaS) business model for Fetch.

Meanwhile, San Francisco-based startup, Marble, and US-based on-demand delivery company, Postmates, are building autonomous delivery robots. Yet another company, Kiwi, already operates its AMRs in UC Berkley and has recently expanded operations to UCLA.

Autonomous Production: While some manufacturing equipment vendors are working on building self-maintaining machines that self-adapt processes to suit changing environments, others, like Kawada, are working on more flexible production robots to assist humans. Their Nextage robot, for instance, coexists with human operators and collaborates with conventional industrial robots.

To flip your burgers, however, a restaurant might use Miso Robotics’ AI-driven robots for the kitchen. The company’s kitchen assistant, “Flippy,” helps grill, fry, prep and plate your food orders. Fast-food chain Caliburger is already using Flippy in California and plans to take the robot to over 50 worldwide locations within a year.

Home Assistants: At home, even vacuum cleaners are gaining a greater degree of autonomy to pick up the crumbs you dropped on the carpet. The Roomba i7+ not only cleans your home on its own but also empties the dirt collected autonomously.

Brains for Autonomy

What’s common among all of these companies and their autonomous machines is the processing power enabled by advanced systems like those from NVIDIA. For instance, Kiwi is using the NVIDIA Jetson TX2 module, while Marble has products with the NVIDIA Jetson TX1.

Kawada, on the other hand, is developing autonomous industrial machines using NVIDIA’s most powerful module yet: the Jetson AGX Xavier. The module was built to meet the needs of AI at the edge and is like a workstation — it delivers 32 TOPS — that fits the palm of your hand. The module has a 512-core Volta GPU on board with Tensor Cores to accelerate large matrix operations for AI.

If you are planning to develop autonomous machines, NVIDIA’s Jetson AGX Xavier Developer Kit will get you going with a comprehensive set of tools, including NVIDIA JetPack and DeepStream SDKs, as well as CUDA, cuDNN and TensorRT software libraries.

If you have already started your project, the Intel Neural Compute Stick 2 (NCS2) will make it easy for you to train and deploy AI on the edge. The self-contained neural network on a thumb drive has an onboard Movidius Myriad X vision processing unit (VPU) and plugs into a USB 3.0 port to seamlessly convert and then deploy PC-trained models to a wide range of devices, such as drones, robots and smart home devices.

More Than Just Brains

Autonomous machines are more than just computers on wheels. They are complex machines that must sense their place in their environment as well as their interaction with it using a variety of sensors, depending on the intended application. For AMRs, image sensors, LiDARs and RADARs help with most of the navigation related information. All robots also need intelligent power and battery management systems.

This means that your autonomous machine project will likely involve a wide range of components and subsystems from an equally wide range of suppliers like Nvidia, Intel, Analog Devices, On Semiconductor, AMS and Basler. And you will need help from experts to not only know all your component options but get advice that is rooted in autonomous machine design experience.

Interested in learning more?

For more information on this topic, or to get in touch with engineering specialist who can help answer any questions you might have, head to arrow.com

Arrow Hosts 5 emerging innovators at CES 2019

The stars will be aligned under the Arrow + Indiegogo banner at CES 2019 – five select entrepreneurs will showcase their products with Arrow Certified Technology. Find out how you can join the club.

Ask around for characteristics of an entrepreneur and you will hear them described as visionaries, problem solvers and leaders who, with their clear-eyed planning and persistence, have stared down financial, marketing and product design hurdles and cut a straight path to success.

The reality, however, is a bit different. If you believe Malcom Gladwell, author of Outliers, it must be hard work, persistence, creativity – all qualities we associate with entrepreneurs – along with a confluence of opportunities.

Opportunities that for these five start-ups have meant engineering support and expertise, as well as free showcasing of products at CES 2019 in Eureka Park – the global stage for start-ups.

Unlimited Tomorrow will display prosthetic devices that cost nearly eight times less than conventional versions, while significantly improving comfort, functionality and control. Unlimited Tomorrow is the result of curiosity, mentoring and crowdfunding via Indiegogo with the Arrow Certification Program taking entrepreneur Easton LaChapelle’s prototype close to production.

“Unlimited Tomorrow has received anywhere from sourcing help to technical conversations, so we can implement the best tech into our product. This has helped a lot, as we are designing a product for tomorrow with scalability in mind. This changes the way you design from a prototype level, and the manufacturers and contracted services you use. Arrow has made all of these great connections and helped us design for scale with cost in mind,” says LaChappelle.

Arrow has supported Unlimited Tomorrow by funding $150,000 into their Indiegogo campaign, 100 Tomorrows, which aims to provide its first 100 prosthetic devices for free.

Waggit will showcase a smart wearable for dogs that tracks vitals, activity and location, and makes it easier to catch pet health issues early. CEO and Co-Founder Susan Sierota raised capital and built a community on Indiegogo. When she faced manufacturing delays, Arrow found a new supplier who could deliver to Waggit’s timeline. What’s more, Arrow helped the startup reduce costs via single supplier sourcing.

Waggit was an Arrow flash funding recipient of $50,000.

Bare Conductive, the conductive paint company, got its Electric Lamp Kit Indiegogo campaign flash funded to the tune of $100,000 from Arrow. The DIY kit allows you to build a lamp from a lightbulb, a piece of paper and a tube of Bare Conductive electric paint.

According to Matt Johnson, CEO of Bare Conductive, the Arrow Certification Program “solves one of crowdfunding’s riskier aspects, which is that it is really hard to go from a prototype to a product that’s actually in everyone’s hands.”

Modobag, a product innovation by Chicago entrepreneur Kevin O’Donnell, is the carry-on luggage that carries you around at 8 mph for over 6 miles.

Arrow helped Modobag optimize durability, minimize weight and reduce costs. With Arrow’s help, Modobag is structuring a global supply chain to source from multiple geographies into one manufacturing location, thereby increasing manufacturability and production quality.

Anyware, a smart adaptor that controls and automates lights while monitoring temperature and humidity levels, will also exhibit with Arrow. What sets this adapter apart is its learning capability to turn homes smart.

Anyware received $100,000 flash funding from Arrow earlier this year and also benefits from manufacturing guidance and expert advice locally – in their home base, Denmark.

A Common Thread

These startups are five of over 11,000 who have joined the Arrow Certification Program, which starts with an application that can put your idea on the path to actualization. The program offers the following benefits as soon as you are qualified:

  • You can schedule a design review and technology recommendations with an engineer and access a 24/7 online chat with an engineer when you urgently need help.
  • You gain free access to Arrow’s BoM tool and Orcad’s cloud-based CAD tool.
  • You automatically get 10% off and free shipping on Arrow.com.
  • You will receive crowdfunding and campaign support from Indiegogo.
  • You get expert assistance on volume pricing, procurement and warehousing services.

Once an Arrow engineer verifies that your technology design is feasible for manufacturing:

  • Your Arrow Certified Technology badge is highlighted on Indiegogo, and you gain marketing muscle from both Indiegogo and Arrow. No wonder then that Indiegogo campaigns in the program raise 84 percent more funds and are 4.5 times more likely to reach their crowdfunding goal.
  • You qualify for a chance to receive a share of flash funding. Arrow has already invested over $1.4 million via flash funding.
  • You receive a $1,000 rebate on Arrow’s components and services.

A Confluence of Opportunities

All of these opportunities are lined up for aspiring entrepreneurs at the Arrow + Indiegogo booth, Eureka Park, CES 2019, where Arrow will continue the tradition of sparking innovation by giving away 10,000 Arduinos, for yet another year, to booth visitors.

Mark your calendars to meet the five featured entrepreneurs and get a demonstration of their products, discuss your own projects with Arrow engineers and program managers, and learn more about joining the Arrow Certification Program at the Arrow booth located in the center of Eureka Park.

If you’re not going to CES 2019, then head to arrow.com to learn more about everything the company is doing at the world’s largest consumer technologies showcase.

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