Intel/Saffron AI Plan Sidesteps Deep Learning

Article By : Junko Yoshida, EE Times

Saffron, an Intel company, use the AI technology called Associative Memory AI, which is a different branch of artificial intelligence from Deep Learning. EE Times talks to Saffron's financial crime-fighter and asks her to explain Saffron-Intel relationship.

MADISON, Wis. — Intel’s $1 billion investment in the AI ecosystem is one of the well-publicized talking points at the processor company. The Intel empire boasts a breadth of AI technologies it has amassed by acquisition and Intel Capital investments in AI startups.

The acquired companies seemingly useful to Intel’s AI ambitions thus far include Altera (2015), Saffron (2015), Nervana (2016), Movidius (2016) and Mobileye (2017). Intel Capital has also fattened its AI portfolio with startups Mighty AI, Data Robot, Lumiata, CognitiveScale, Aeye Inc., Element AI and others.

Unclear is how Intel is going to stitch all this together. 

With AI innovation still in its early days, Intel’s apparent scattershot approach to AI strategy might be justified. We might still have to wait a while for a more coherent narrative to emerge.

Intel has talked up its AI hardware portfolio more often than its overall AI strategy. Typically, Intel announced this week that it will shipbefore the end of the year the Nervana Neural Network Processor (NNP), formerly known as “Lake Crest.” Naveen Rao, formerly CEO and cofounder of Nervana, and now Intel’s vice president and general manager of AI products, describes NNP as featuring “a purpose built architecture for deep learning.”

Intel has other ammunition when it comes to AI chips, including Xeon family, FPGAs (from Altera), Mobileye (for automotive) and Movidius (for machine learning at the edge). 

However, Intel has been reticent about AI applications or exactly which fields of AI where it will focus. AI is a realm both broad and deep. Among Intel’s sprawl of acquisitions, the biggest mystery might be Saffron.

It was hard not to notice earlier this month when Intel announced a new product called the Intel Saffron Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Advisor. The product isn’t hardware, although AML apparently runs on Xeon processors, but a tool for investigators and analysts to ferret out financial crimes.

Elizabeth Shriver-Procell

Elizabeth Shriver-Procell

Earlier this week, EE Times had a chat with Elizabeth Shriver-Procell, director, financial industry solutions at Saffron Technology, to learn about the AI technologies behind Saffron’s product, and what she sees as Saffron’s gain in becoming an Intel company. 

Mainly, though, we wanted to know what a long-time financial crime-fighter like Shriver-Procell is doing inside the world’s largest CPU company.

EE Times: Tell us a little bit about yourself. I hear you are an expert on financial analytics, working at various companies and agencies including the Treasury Department.

Shriver-Procell: I am a lawyer, with the focus of my work on fighting financial crimes. I’ve worked at international consultancies and various financial institutions. Most recently, I was at Bank of America. I joined Saffron earlier this year. Yes, I also worked at the U.S. Treasury as a program manager for analytics development. 

EE Times: So before coming to Saffron, did you use Saffron’s products?

Shriver-Procell: Some organizations I was associated with — including some clients at consulting companies — have used Saffron. I’ve been intrigued by the platform, so when this opportunity came up, I took it.

EE Times: So, what exactly does Saffron offer?

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