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The Chips Are Down: Facebook Eyes Its Own Silicon, Advertises Roles

Facebook searches for a semiconductor creator, amid the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

By April Slattery

Facebook is looking to build a team to develop its own semiconductors, in a bid to lower its dependence on other companies such a Qualcomm, with a job posting by the social media company seeking a team to create an ‘end-to-end SoC/ASIC’ yesterday.

The advert looks to experienced chip designers that can work in three areas of its business; artificial intelligence (AI), the Oculus Virtual Reality (VR) headset and in its data centre operations.

Facebook’s ad reads, The ideal candidate will be a consensus driven leader with management and leadership experience in small to large size organisations, with comprehensive system and silicon development experience, and a proven track record of first-pass success in ASIC, FPGA and Systems.”

It adds that responsibilities will include: “Build and manage an end-to-end SoC/ASIC, firmware and driver development organization, including all aspects of front-end and back-end standard cell ASIC development (including silicon architecture, micro-architecture, RTL development, Verification, FPGA emulation, co-simulation, simulation acceleration, synthesis, DFT, floor planning, physical design place and route, DRC, LVS and GDS II stream out, and post-silicon validation)”

Its LinkedIn advert had 19 applicants on Thursday 19th.

A system on chip, or SOC, is a variation of a semiconductor which contains various components built into a single piece of silicon; typically used in mobile devices.

ASIC, application specific integrated circuit is a chip designed for a ‘narrow purpose’; for example such components are normally quickest or most-efficient to run a particular piece of software.

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Aside from the company’s official job posting, former head of the company’s AI development, Yann LeCun posted a tweet linking to the ad, sparking much interest around the opening.

Facebook’s ad did not specify the specific use Facebook plans to put the chips to, other than the broader spectrum of AI.

The job references for a candidate to have “expertise to build custom solutions targeted at multiple verticals including AI/ML,” indicating the company is looking to focus on moving to AI for particular tasks.

But what will designing its own chips mean for the company?

Currently the servers Facebook trains its AI systems on are powered by Nvidia, but this job posting speculates the social media company’s desire to become self-reliant.

Developing its own chips would allow Facebook to power its hardware devices, AI software and servers within its data centres. Therefore, giving the company much more control over product development as well as better tuning its software and hardware together.

Facebook’s Future in AI

During his appearance before the Senate’s Commerce and Judiciary committees Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, outlined that the use of AI can in fact help other areas of the company such as detecting unwanted activity as well as powering its servers, with this being an area Facebook is looking into more deeply.

“Over time, I think the strategy would be to develop more A.I. tools that can more proactively identify those types of content and do that filtering up front… with more A.I. tools to help flag problematic content,” Zuckerberg said.

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