Upcoming cell phone chips from Qualcomm will use artificial intelligence to block malware before it infects your phone. The chip company said on Monday that the next-generation Snapdragon 820 processor used in a variety of Android smartphones will be the first chip that uses machine learning to detect threats and privacy issues thanks to an application called Snapdragon Smart Protect.
The learning aspect is important because security threats today are no longer static. They constantly evolve, and relying on continuous updates to keep your phone protected would be burdensome to the user (and their data plan). Qualcomm’s plan is to use the Zeroth neural networking technology it has developed in the last few years to help the Snapdragon Smart Protect software running on the phone adapt to the threats it will encounter in the wild, all in real time. This will be the first time the Zeroth technology has been actually put into action.
Qualcomm (QCOM) has done three things here technology-lovers should pay attention to. The first is bringing machine learning, or artificial intelligence, to security. The second is bringing machine learning to the smartphone, where power is at a premium. Typically most machine learning algorithms run on large servers plugged into a wall at a data centers—a far difference scenario than a battery-operated device that needs to last all day. The third thing is that Qualcomm is working with security software providers via an application programming interface to share some data so the Snapdragon Smart Protect application on the chip can learn what threats are out there and how best to handle them.
This kind of data sharing is invaluable in the security world for training artificial intelligence to identify looming threats, but it is also the competitive advantage of security software makers, which means they don’t give it up lightly—or at all. For Qualcomm to get them to start sharing some of this data to help train the artificial intelligence powering this software on its chip is a big deal. It will ultimately offer firms that participate, including Avast, AVG, and Lookout, an advantage because their software will run better on smartphones. Depending on the terms of the deal it may also improve their software across all lines of business.
Qualcomm expects consumer devices using this technology to be on the market next year. Of course, for it to take off, handset manufacturers will have to adopt the next-generation Qualcomm chipset, and whether or not they will is still somewhat of an open question, especially since Samsung had dumped Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 in its high-end handsets late last year. However, the new technology may be exactly what Qualcomm needs to win over smartphone makers once more.
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