Baidu’s had a busy week. Fresh off of yesterday’s unveiling of Apollo 3.5, the latest generation of its self-driving platform, the Beijing company announced OpenEdge, an open source computing platform that enables developers to build edge applications “with more flexibility.” It also announced two new AI hardware development platforms: the BIE-AI-Box, a kit for in-car video analysis designed in partnership with Intel, and the BIE-AI-Board, a chipboard codeveloped with NXP that’s optimized for object classification.
“The explosive growth of IoT devices and rapid adoption of AI is fueling great demand for edge computing,” Watson Yin, vice president and general manager of Baidu Cloud, said. “Edge computing is a critical component of Baidu’s ABC (AI, Big Data and Cloud Computing) strategy.”
OpenEdge is the local package component of Baidu’s commercial Baidu Intelligent Edge (BIE), which the company claims is China’s first open source edge computing platform.
The BIE platform underpinning OpenEdge offers a cloud-based management suite to manage edge nodes, edge apps, and resources such as certification, password, and program code. It supports models trained on AI frameworks such as Google’s TensorFlow and Baidu’s own PaddlePaddle, meaning that developers can train AI models on BIE and deploy them locally. Moreover, devices deployed with BIE are afforded additional features, like the ability to cache data and perform on-device processing in the event of a flaky network connection.
These tools together, Baidu says, let developers build custom edge computing systems on a range of hardware that can collect data, distribute messages, perform AI inference, and synchronize with the cloud.
“By moving the compute closer to the source of the data, it greatly reduces the latency, lowers the bandwidth usage, and ultimately brings real-time and immersive experiences to end users,” Yin said. “And by providing an open source platform, we have also greatly simplified the process for developers to create their own edge computing applications.”
BIE-AI-Box and BIE-AI-Board
Baidu and Intel’s BIE-AI-Box is, as alluded to earlier, a hardware kit custom built for analyzing the frames captured by cockpit cameras. Toward that end, it incorporates BIE technologies “specially” engineered for the purpose, and connects with cameras for road recognition, car body monitoring, driver behavior recognition, and other tasks.
As for the BIE-AI-Board, which is designed for object recognition, it’s compact enough to be embedded into cameras, drones, robots, and other hardware. Early partners have integrated it with electric vehicles to assess the health of chargers and with agricultural drones to analyze crop spectral data, Baidu says. (In the latter case, it helped to reduce pesticide use by up to 50 percent.)
Baidu’s looking to the cloud for revenue growth. It recently partnered with Nvidia to bring the chipmaker’s Volta graphics platform to Baidu Cloud, and in July 2018, it unveiled two new chips for AI workloads: the Kunlun 818-300 for machine learning model training and the Kunlun 818-100 for inference.
According to Gartner, the cloud computing market is projected to be worth $441 billion by 2020.