Intel Launches Neural Network Stick to Embed AI in IoT Devices

Intel just announced its latest invention: the Neural Compute Stick 2 (NCS2), a self-contained neural network on a thumb drive. NCS2 is intended to make the process of embedding intelligence into Internet of Things and network edge devices faster and easier. Edge devices, which include routers, switches, gateways and a range of IoT devices, are defined as any hardware that controls the flow of data between the boundaries of two networks. The announcement came just before Intel’s first AI developers’ conference in Beijing.

Engadget reports that the IoT devices that will be impacted include “gadgets like Ring doorbell cameras, industrial robots, smart medical devices or self-guided camera drones.” The NCS2 works by “offloading much of the processing power required to train them to its onboard Movidius Myriad X vision processing unit (VPU).”

“We can do some incredible things with artificial intelligence, and one of the fastest growing data types, as we all know, is video data,” said Intel’s IOT group general manager of channels and ecosystem Steen Graham. “The camera is the ultimate sensor.”

The NCS2 enables the developer to create “AI algorithms and computer vision systems locally (i.e. on [the] laptop) without needing a connection to the cloud or even the Internet,” by running it on a Linux-based OS with a USB 3.0 port. Its processing cores “reportedly enable it to perform eight times faster than its predecessor, which was released last year.”

According to Engadget, “Intel has already pre-released the NCS2 to a handful of developers who’ve used it to develop a variety of helpful applications including Clean Water AI, which combines machine vision with a microscope to detect harmful bacteria in water; BlueScan AI, which scans skin for signs of melanoma; and ASL Classification, which translates American Sign Language into text — all in real-time.”

Available through Intel’s distributor network, the NSC2 retails for $100, with no restrictions on who can purchase it. “That could be cause for celebration since, with a broader developer base, the rest of us will likely see more and better improvements to our existing IoT and edge devices as well as new gadgets and capabilities we haven’t even considered yet.”