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Alibaba unveils new AI chip aimed at speeding up e-commerce and cloud computing tasks

Hangzhou, China, Sept. 25, 2019 – 

Alibaba Group Holding has revealed its own home-grown high-performance AI inference chip, a neural processing unit (NPU) named Hanguang 800, as it pushes further into the field of artificial intelligence and seeks to make its e-commerce platform more efficient.

Alibaba unveiled the chip - which specialises in the acceleration of machine learning tasks - at Alibaba Cloud's annual Apsara computing conference in Hangzhou on Wednesday.

"The launch of Hanguang 800 is an important step in our pursuit of next-generation technologies, boosting computing capabilities that will drive both our current and emerging businesses while improving energy-efficiency," said Jeff Zhang, Alibaba Group chief technology officer and president of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence, in a statement. "We plan to empower our clients by providing access through our cloud business to the advanced computing that is made possible by the chip, anytime and anywhere."

The chip's launch comes amid a national drive by China to integrate emerging technologies such as AI and next generation 5G wireless networks into its economy, spurring an industrial upgrading at a time when it is engaged in a tense trade and tech stand-off with the US. Chinese President Xi Jinping has also called for greater self-sufficiency in core technologies such as semiconductors.

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