SK Telecom Unveils AI Chip, Plans for AI Semiconductor Business


SK Telecom has unveiled its self-developed artificial intelligence (AI) chip named ‘SAPEON X220’ and shared its AI semiconductor business vision.

SAPEON X220 is optimally designed to process artificial intelligence tasks faster, using less power by efficiently processing large amounts of data in parallel. Its deep learning computation speed is 6.7 kilo-frames per second, which is 1.5 times faster than that of Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) for inference that are being widely used by AI-service companies. At the same time, it uses 20% less power than GPU by consuming 60 watts of energy and is about half the price of a GPU.

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SKT explained that SAPEON X220 will enable the provision of high-quality AI services by enhancing the performance of AI data centers through speedy computation of massive amounts of data.

From next year, the company will apply SAPEON X220 to its AI service NUGU to improve the voice recognition capability. SAPEON X220 will also be utilized by SKT’s affiliate companies. For instance, ADT Caps will apply the chip to enhance the performance of its AI-based video monitoring service named T View.

In addition, SAPEON X220 will be applied to the cloud server of the next-generation media platform of Cast.era, a joint venture of SKT and Sinclair Broadcast Group.

SKT will also provide the AI chip to enable AI-based projects promoted under the Korean New Deal Initiative put forth by the Korean Government.

The company aims to generate synergies by combining AI semiconductor chips and 5G edge cloud. The application of an AI chip to a cloud located close to the end users will enable the provision of high-quality AI services with ultra-low latency regardless of customer device.

Moreover, the company said that it will go beyond just providing the AI chip to data centers by actively promoting the AI as a Service (AIaaS) business. It will offer a complete solution package as a service by combining its AI chip and AI software, including diverse AI algorithms for features like content recommendation, voice recognition, video recognition and media upscaling, along with Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).

For instance, an over-the-top (OTT) service provider wanting to adopt an AI-based content curation service will be able to easily implement the service by simply using SKT’s solution that comes with all that is needed, from high-performance data center applied with AI chip to AI-based software like content recommendation algorithm and APIs.

Meanwhile, SKT is also playing a leading role in Korea’s efforts to secure differentiated competitiveness in AI semiconductor technology. The industry-academia-research consortium led by SKT is currently carrying out a large-scale project assigned by the Ministry of Science and ICT to develop next-generation AI chips and interfaces that can be utilized for high-performance servers like cloud data centers. The consortium members include SK Hynix, Seoul National University and Korea Electronics Technology Institute. SKT brings to the consortium its capability in AI processor core and is working closely with SK Hynix, the world’s second-largest memory chipmaker, in the area of memory technology to promote advancement of AI semiconductor technology.