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Brainchip (ASX:BRN) – AI at the edge

Investing 101

Shares in leading tech firm, BrainChip Holdings Ltd (ASX:BRN), are up 113% since the start of the month after releasing a positive set of earnings results and a series of product-specific announcements that have been well received, predominantly by retail investors.

  • Firstly, what is BrainChip?

    If you’ve seen the blockbuster sci-fi Terminator 2 starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, you might remember the scene where the T800 (Arnie) is asked whether the Terminator can learn. He replies that its CPU (central processing unit) is a neural-net processor; a “learning computer.” What does that mean? A neural net processor is a CPU that is modelled on how a human brain works, but operates in a single chip.

    BrainChip is an Australian-listed, US-based company that holds the title as the world’s only pure-play Artificial Intelligence company working in the development of neural computing technology. It recently developed a proprietary neuro-morphic processor called Akida, which gathers artificial intelligence through event-driven processing to learn in real-time, in the same way as the human brain does.

    The company says the Akida neural processor is a complete, purpose-built solution that solves the inherent problems of today’s technology in addressing “edge AI” – a limited power budget, limited processor performance, limited memory, limited scalability, limited (or no) connectivity, and limited cost-effectiveness, while enabling true intelligence, at “the edge” (the location where data is created) through continuous learning.

    In simple terms, the company has looked at the way the brain operates, and has transferred this into digital form via a silicon chip. The theory behind the chip works like this: if we see a new event we process it, and if we see something we already know, the chip doesn’t. Instead it allows the chip to do ultra-low power processing at the edge. This Akida Neural Processor solves the problem of moving AI out of the data centre and to the edge.

    BrainChip believes the next step is for AI to evolve to support intelligence where data is created. And the key to doing this, it believes, lies in its ability to achieve ultra-low power processing as data is processed. It is the next step in the evolution of Artificial Intelligence, “a flexible, scalable event-based processor solution for Edge AI applications that can revolutionize human-to-machine interaction and IoT (internet of things) as we know them. A neural processor that mimics brain architecture for edge computing applications.”

    BRN’s meteoric share price rise comes on the back of two announcements; a partnership with Magik Eye Inc to utilise its AI processing unit with revolutionary 3D depth-sensing technology, and the landmark agreement with US-based VORAGO Technologies to support a Phase I NASA program to develop a neuromorphic processor that meets spaceflight requirements (that is, BrainChip’s Akida.) But interestingly, BRN management has said it is unaware of any reason behind the massive surge.

    Buyer beware – If you’re looking for a stock that is cutting-edge tech and out of this world, BrainChip definitely ticks all the right boxes. During COVID-19 the world made a rapid yet relaxed transition into the digital world. It won’t be long before we see AI live and in action as we go about our daily lives. BrainChip does however carry significant risk, and isn’t for the faint hearted, as its price fluctuations attest. 

    After hitting a high of 97c last week, shares have pulled back and are trading at 49c.

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