Qualcomm’s John Kehrli says, ‘Our vision is to make all devices increasingly intelligent enabling them the ability to perceive their surroundings

Media 7 | December 9, 2021

Qualcomm’s John Kehrli says, ‘Our vision is to make all devices increasingly intelligent enabling them the ability to perceive their surroundings
John Kehrli, Qualcomm's Senior Director of Product Management, discusses his illustrious professional career and Qualcomm's ongoing efforts to introduce AI across many product lines and technologies. Read on to know his insightful thoughts on MLPerf benchmarks, Edge AI and his advice to young minds hoping to pursue a successful career in AI and Cloud computing landscape.

It is essential to deeply appreciate the challenges your customers and the market are facing to develop comprehensive solutions that address those needs and lead the industry.


MEDIA 7: You have an astounding experience of over two decades with industry pioneers like Intel and Qualcomm. What has been the driving force behind your remarkable career?
JOHN KEHRLI:
I think my success can be attributed to embracing challenging and diverse positions over my 20+ year career both at Intel and Qualcomm. This unique experience has enabled me to develop a strong foundation taking on challenging leadership positions that ranged from sales, business development, product management and many others.

The diversity of perspectives I obtained from these experiences have provided a solid footing to address the immense, unprecedented challenges of today’s marketplace. Although recently I have focused on product management roles, this insatiable desire to learn and expand my skillsets have not wavered as demonstrated when I transitioned a few years ago from the premium-tier mobile market to AI take my next leadership position.

From my perspective, it is easy to fall into the trap of complacency and continue building a specific set of skills that are attractive to many employers, but adaptability with a broad range of perspectives empowers the most successful leaders. For me, I have constantly challenged myself to grow each day in every position, and I recommend others to do the same to become the next generation of leaders in our industry.


M7: How is Qualcomm redefining the customer experience for its modern users with the help of AI?
JK:
Great question.I believe the unique and differentiated experience Qualcomm is bringing to customers is around the concept of distributed intelligence. Our vision is to make all devices increasingly intelligent enabling them the ability to perceive their surroundings. Driving this vision, Qualcomm has been building key technologies to take this from concept to reality. We envision this intelligence permeating through every part of the network from the edge to the cloud. Through the use of our key technologies, we are supporting use cases such as real time translation, superior contextual awareness with advanced audio and sensor technology, enhanced camera use cases and much more.

This means Qualcomm is bringing AI to multiple product lines and technologies and whether that AI experience is conducted on-device or in the cloud, it is transparent to the customer because of the 5G connection. That transparency is bringing together new and exciting use-cases to customers by bringing the cloud capability closer to devices at the edge of the network. AI is already pervasive in almost everything we do and the seamless experience from the mobile devices to the data center is already facilitating a new host of experiences brought to you by Qualcomm.

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AI models are growing tremendously in size, and thus we need increasingly complex hardware and software solutions to address those inference needs in the most efficient way possible.



M7: What are the challenges that you face regarding handling and maintaining highly developed technologies such as Edge AI and IoT AI at Qualcomm?
JK:
Another great question. Edge AI appliance market is such a greenfield opportunity with a plethora of potential use-cases that it is often difficult to address all the opportunities today and on the horizon. I think this is a unique case where the capabilities of AI have opened so many interesting applications that it is difficult to prioritize the opportunities with the highest potential. Regardless, one of the areas we decided to focus on is the Edge Appliance market specifically around vision-based applications. Personally, this is an area I’m particularly excited about due to all the benefits to society that I see on the horizon ranging from public safety to healthcare.

Another challenge I see is around the growing size and complexity of neural networks, especially around language processing and computer vision. These AI models are growing tremendously in size, and thus we need increasingly complex hardware and software solutions to address those inference needs in the most efficient way possible. Another challenge I see is around the safety and security of AI which we are helping address today with some of our leading customers specifically around preventing unauthorized access to critical data. I believe this will continue to be a growing focus with advanced security techniques to ensure sensitive data is protected.


M7: Qualcomm recently released MLPerf benchmarks for image and language processing that surprised a lot of industry watchers. Can you please tell our readers a bit more about this amazing achievement?
JK:
  Absolutely! We recently completed our second MLPerf submission and we are very proud of our results. We completed 82 submissions this cycle from vision-based models, including ResNet50 and Resnet34-SSD, to natural language (NLP) models all showcasing our industry-leading performance-per-watt both on the Edge and Datacenter across a vast range of platforms. Moreover, we demonstrated how that competitive advantage scales at the server and rack level with our best-in-class peak performance with our 16-card, 2U dense server submission.

While I am excited to hear our results caught the industry’s attention (as your question indicates), I think this is only the start of what is to come from Qualcomm. Our Cloud AI 100 solution leverages our mobile heritage of low-power processing, and our differentiated approach to the AI market enables us to address the most pressing challenges of customers. Our focus around our MLPerf efforts continue to align our submissions with the needs of our customers, and we are pleased to see this crucial benchmark not only around peak performance but also performance in relation to power given this is the metric the industry is focused on.

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I encourage young people to also balance their skillsets with an equal focus on ensuring ethical and fair implementation of AI to ensure it benefits the greater good of society.



M7: What do you think is essential to stay competitive in a market that is going through constant digitalization?
JK:
I think it really comes down to having a great pulse on the market and truly understanding the demands your customers are facing. As any great product manager will tell you, it is essential to deeply appreciate the challenges your customers and the market are facing to develop comprehensive solutions that address those needs and lead the industry. 

For the AI Inference market, that is precisely what we did from the onset leveraging our low-power expertise at Qualcomm combined with 15 years of AI technology with commercially proven IP and end products. This focus has allowed us to bring to market an industry-changing solution for customers who are trying to balance increasing AI workloads with opposing forces around lower power, operational cost and environmental or carbon footprint initiatives.


M7: This is the last question but it is an important one for our readers. Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to the young people who are aspiring to pursue a successful career in AI and Cloud computing landscape?
JK:
For a young student or professional looking to enter the AI industry, I believe having a strong software background is crucial. From mastering different programming languages like Python to understanding different tools and frameworks to develop those AI models including Pytorch or Tensorflow, having a strong software background is crucial. Over the last few years focusing on this industry, I have found one thing is for certain – the models will only continue growing in size and complexity, so ensuring you have the technical acumen to be successful to help address those growing needs and challenges is imperative. Beyond technical acumen, I encourage young people to also balance those skillsets with an equal focus on ensuring ethical and fair implementation of AI to ensure it benefits the greater good of society.

ABOUT QUALCOMM

Qualcomm is the world’s leading wireless technology innovator and the driving force behind the development, launch, and expansion of 5G. When they connected the phone to the internet, the mobile revolution was born. Today, their foundational technologies enable the mobile ecosystem and are found in every 3G, 4G and 5G smartphone. They bring the benefits of mobile to new industries, including automotive, the internet of things, and computing, and are leading the way to a world where everything and everyone can communicate and interact seamlessly. Qualcomm Incorporated includes their licensing business, QTL, and the vast majority of our patent portfolio. Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., a subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated, operates, along with its subsidiaries, substantially all of their engineering, research and development functions, and substantially all of their products and services businesses, including their QCT semiconductor business.

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