Southampton researchers part of new international centre to develop intelligent devices

Artificial Intelligence
Southampton’s AI experts are focusing on energy-efficient computation for intelligence.

Researchers from the University of Southampton will be at the forefront of developing pioneering approaches to embed machine learning in electronic devices as part of a new £1.2M International Centre funded by the EPSRC.

The Centre for Spatial Computational Learning is led by Imperial College and involves collaborators from Southampton, the University of Toronto and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Industrial partners include Arm, Imagination Technologies, Xilinx, Corerain, and Maxeler Technologies.

Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence which enables computers to learn from data they have previously observed, building models and using them to make decisions or predictions in the future. It is a key component of facial recognition and personal assistants like Siri or Alexa – and in more ambitious services like self-driving cars.

The information devices use to personalise our experiences, or keep us safe, is currently processed away from the devices themselves in the ‘cloud’ – a virtual storage and computer network.

Embedding artificial intelligence into everyday objects – such as the Internet of Things (IoT) – requires processing data on local devices, like phones, known as ‘the edge’, but the computing power needed to cater for these machine learning models is too great for current low-energy handheld devices to manage.

“The rise of IoT and autonomous computing is driving the need to embed intelligence into devices,” said Dr Geoff Merrett, Associate Professor and Head of the Centre for IoT and Pervasive Systems at the University of Southampton. “This new International Centre will enable us to bring together some of the best minds from around the world to tackle the challenges associated with this, with our team focussing on energy-efficient computation for intelligence.”

Professor Bashir Al-Hashimi, Southampton’s Dean of Engineering and Physical Sciences, added: “This new and prestigious scheme is aimed for leading UK research groups to work in partnership with the best international researchers, and our leading involvement is a testament to the quality and relevance of our research in smart algorithms for energy-efficient computing and their experimental validation.”

Over the next three years, the Centre will fund postdoctoral research posts and PhD researchers, along with a substantial researcher exchange programme among the constituent collaborators.

Centre lead Professor George Constantinides, of Imperial’s Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, hopes the Centre will help establish an international community and define the research direction for the next 20 or so years.

He said: “At the moment, different international groups have the key to different parts of the puzzle, so bringing these leaders together for the next three years will help us write the roadmap to see us into the future.”