Six leading startups driving Japan’s AI development

By Yoichiro Ando

Artificial intelligence (AI) is on the verge of transforming entire industries as it gears up to power semiconductor industry innovation and growth, thrusting the technology to front and center at SEMICON Japan 2019, December 12-14 at the Tokyo Big Sight (Tokyo International Exhibition Center).

A number of Japanese startups are on leading edge of AI innovation in machine and deep learning. One is Preferred Networks Inc., a company that applies cutting-edge deep learning technology to Internet of Things (IoT) applications across transportation, manufacturing and healthcare.

In his opening day keynote At SEMICON Japan 2019, Toru Nishikawa, president and CEO of Preferred Networks, Inc., will highlight the latest developments and promise of using deep learning for industrial applications. Nishikawa will unpack how AI companies jockeying for competitive advantage will win by harnessing technologies to process massive amounts of data efficiently and quickly.

Following is look at Preferred Networks, Inc. and five other Japanese startups that are driving AI innovation.

Within Japan’s world of AI, machine learning, and deep dearning, Preferred Networks is likely the most well-known Japanese company. The parent company, Preferred Infrastructure, was founded in March 2006 by Toru Nishikawa and Daisuke Okanohara, who focused on search engine development before turning to machine learning and establishing Preferred Networks to commercialize the technology.

Preferred Networks established itself as one of the world’s top providers of machine learning technology with the development of Chainer – an open source deep learning framework that has been offered free of charge since June 2015 and was released before TensorFlow, Google’s renowned Deep Learning framework.

Established in 2012, ABEJA is thought to be Japan’s first venture company to specialize in deep learning. ABEJA’s core technology is its AI platform ABEJA Platform. Based on this platform, the company offers various solutions to more than 100 client companies. ABEJA also offers ABEJA Insight, a specialized package service for the retail and distribution, manufacturing, and infrastructure industries.

Data analytics provider BrainPad Inc. was the first Japanese AI venture listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Established in 2004, before the advent of big data, BrainPad Inc. cultivated a vision of analyzing vast amounts of data in increase the competitiveness of Japanese companies.

LeapMind Inc. aims to offer deep learning technology that uses fewer computing resources and draws less power. Both are important capabilities since deep learning requires considerable computing resources to perform image and speech recognition. The company’s answer to this deep learning challenge is a small form factor FPGA with low power consumption.

In April 2018, LeapMind started offering the tool DeLTA-Lite to support model construction for Deep Learning. The tool simplifies the development of deep learning design models, eliminating the need for model design, hardware, and software expertise.

Hacarus Inc.’s HACARUS-X AI technology, which combines sparse modeling and machine learning technology, features low power consumption and small devices such as FPGAs. In collaboration with semiconductor trading company PALTEK, Hacarus is integrating HACARUS-X algorithms with Xilinx’s FPGA Zynq UltraScale + MPSoC. Both companies area also implementing HACARUS-X algorithms in a box computer.

Sparse modeling is gaining attention as a modeling method by which humans can understand the judgment process of AI by extracting features from a small amount of learning data.

With expertise in life science fields such as medical and biology and image processing technology, LPixel, Inc. develops image analysis systems with original algorithms and machine learning techniques. It has developed a cloud-based AI image analysis platform and an AI medical image diagnosis support technology that streamlines the review of large amounts of research data and detects image fraud in research papers and other documents for the medical and biology fields, freeing researchers to devote more time to their core work.

Yoichiro Ando is a marketing director at SEMI Japan. 


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