Artificial intelligence is becoming every more important to Lenovo as the tech giant seeks to capitalize on growing AI demand through its high performance computing and supercomputing capabilities. The tech giant picked Morrisville for a new AI center and is working with NCSU on a climate change project that requires AI and high-performance computing horsepower.

In an exclusive Q&A, Lenovo’s top AI exec talks about what all Lenovo is doing.

  • Why is AI so important for Lenovo?

Lenovo is one of the fastest growing supercomputer companies around the world. Building complex neural networks requires the same type of expertise as building supercomputers and Lenovo is well positioned there.

In addition, our enterprise clients from different industries have an intense interest in understanding how AI can help them unlock new potential in their fields.

[On Tuesday], as part of the announcements, we are working with a number of customers as well as partners on AI projects such as:

1. With NC State on a project that will help conserve water and energy resources to support growing demands on food production.
2. With Mark III systems on a project that will help reduce costs and improve quality on manufacturing lines
These and other projects are being run in the Lenovo AI Innovation Centers.

  • Why pick Morrisville for one of three innovation labs?

The AI Innovation Centers bring not only infrastructure as well as expertise on the field of AI and deep neural networks. Morrisville is an ideal location where we have local access to not only the Lenovo experts on AI, but the ability to bring in experts from some of our partner research universities.

With world class research universities located right here in the Triangle area, Morrisville make a great location from which Lenovo can help not only our customers in the enterprise, but be able to help solve some of humanity’s greatest challenges with AI technology.

In addition, Morrisville is the headquarters for Lenovo Data Center Group, where we also have one of our executive briefing centers, where we bring customers through daily (often times we host multiple customers in a single day).

  • How many people in Triangle are working on AI? Are they across business units yet collaborating as a team?

Lenovo’s CEO YY [Yang Yuanqing] announced in April that Lenovo will invest $1.2B over the next four years on AI and related technologies. Lenovo has 100+ data scientists and AI developers across the world.

In Morrisville, we have a team of 40 across disciplines such as engineering, development and data scientists.

  • WRAL TechWire has interviewed your lead on augmented reality development/smartphones – are these scientists also working in AI?

Yes, AR and AI are linked in that they are both data intensive workloads that can help make precise predictions that help make our lives better. Over time, you can expect to see more AI technology in Lenovo AR tech for new and different solutions to common problems.

  • How did the NCSU project come about? What is Lenovo providing NCSU? Is NCSU being charged anything for access to AI and for collaboration with Lenovo researchers?

The NCSU Center for Geospatial Analytics and Lenovo are partnering around a project that will help conserve water and energy resources to help manage droughts better for agriculture. The AI and machine learning tool will be able to identify crop types and hence their water requirements using satellite and other remote sensor data.

This data is then used to identify areas which may experience drought conditions so local services can plan mitigation actions to help manage these droughts.

This project will require a large amount of compute resources as well as expertise on deep learning. The university is partnering with Lenovo to run this project in the Lenovo AI Innovation Centers.

These resources are made available by Lenovo at no charge to the University and are part of our ongoing collaboration work.

  • How does AI R&D mesh with Lenovo’s server business?

The possibilities for AI are endless and the use cases span every field imaginable. To enable this technology, Lenovo has announced specific AI optimized systems such as the ThinkSystem SD530. These AI optimized servers will be the infrastructure for the deep learning tools and neural networks that will tackle some of humanity’s greatest challenges.

  • How does AI R&D mesh with Lenovo’s supercomputer business?

Lenovo is one of the fastest growing supercomputer companies around the world. Building complex neural networks requires the same type of expertise as building supercomputers and Lenovo is well positioned there.

Lenovo is No. 2 in the world for Supercomputers (per list of top 500 supercomputers around the world) and having the expertise to create these complex machines enables us to be positioned well for creating AI solutions for our customers.