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Micron: Automata chips to be used for virus detection, medical apps, DNA sequencing

Micron Technology introduced its Automata programmable processor in late 2013 and said that it would be used for a variety of applications that require a lot of compute performance. Recently the company started to provide its Automata processors to software developers and earlier this week it revealed some additional details about applications that will take advantage of the new technology.

Micron’s Automata processing technology is a programmable silicon device capable of performing high-speed, comprehensive search and analysis of complex, unstructured data streams. To take advantage of the unique adaptable customizable pattern recognition engine, developers need to learn how to use this technology and write software code for it.

According to Micron, the variety of applications that can use Automata is very broad, but initially the chips could be used for virus detection in networking. Eventually the range of apps will get considerably broader. What is especially impressive is that Automata can be used for real time medical examinations.

“I think it can be used for real time medical applications,” said Marc Durcan, chief executive officer of Micron, during the 2014 annual meeting of shareholders. “For DNA sequencing and understanding, for a very quick analysis of samples and biological material to understand what is going on in chemical environments and genetic environments.”


Just like other highly parallel processors, such as GPUs or many-core CPUs, Automata chips could be used for facial and speech recognition as well as other applications like that. What is important is that Automata is positioned as a co-processor, not as a central processing unit that is capable of performing all types of operations relatively efficiently.

Micron is clearly interested in driving Automata into next-generation datacentres as well as supercomputers. However, the adoption of Automata will take a long time. Micron expects its co-processor to become relatively popular and bring in significant amount of revenue only sometimes in 2017 or later.

“We are not looking for huge revenue this year or next year or probably even a year after that,” said Mr. Durcan. “Over time it is going to have significant impact in the way people think about data and what is possible with big data sets and real time analytics.”

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KitGuru Says: While it is obvious that Micron will face a lot of competition from graphics processors, field programmable gate arrays and multi-core CPUs, it looks like Micron is generally optimistic about the prospects of Automata.

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