IBM offers AI help to mobile developers

An EU-funded project uses brute force and intelligence to auto-optimise mobile software
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor
IBM on Tuesday announced a software-development tool that it claims can cut the time for optimising mobile-phone applications by a factor of 10, with the potential to rapidly and efficiently move entire operating systems between platforms. 

Milepost GCC is a version of the popular open-source compiler developed by the EU-funded Milepost consortium, of which IBM is a member, the company said. The software uses machine learning to dramatically reduce the time it takes to adapt software to run efficiently on a given hardware architecture.

The compiler can work with any hardware, including servers and desktops, but it is particularly useful in the development of mobile devices, where hardware is diverse and changes rapidly, IBM said. According to a paper published by the project, the system works by comparing the results of multiple compilations done with the compiler configured in a wide variety of ways, then deciding which combinations of configurations are best suited for the target system.

The company's initial experiments achieved an 18 percent average performance improvement on embedded-application benchmarks, IBM said, with the system reducing the time to acceptable performance on a new mobile phone by up to a factor of 10.

Milepost has also launched a code-tuning website at cTuning.org, and invited developers to continue contributing to the project on a long-term basis after the Milepost project ends in August.

One goal for cTuning.org is to rapidly tune entire Linux operating systems and to optimise applications for mobile architectures on the fly.

"We would... like to test Milepost GCC/cTuning tools to... optimise programs for mobile systems on the fly (for example, using Android, Moblin, etc)," cTuning developers said on the website. "We hope that this technology will considerably minimise repetitive, time-consuming tasks and human intervention when optimising computing systems and will reduce time-to-market for new products, thus boosting innovation and novel research."

The Milepost consortium includes IBM's Haifa research lab, the University of Edinburgh, the UK's ARC International, France's CAPS Enterprise, and the French research institute INRIA.

The software is available via the Milepost website.

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