SUNTRUST: Nvidia's next big bet could deliver 'significant revenue' soon

Nvidia has placed a big bet on the growth of artificial intelligence, spending nearly $US3 billion on its latest data center chip by some estimates.

The move has paid off, as the data center segment is one of the fastest growing segments for Nvidia, representing 33% of the company’s revenue growth over the last year, according to data from Bloomberg.

And while Nvidia won’t be abandoning data centres anytime soon, the company is already moving on to the next big thing, according to one Wall Street analyst.

“Artificial intelligence at the Edge expands the potential use cases for inference, and NVDA’s position,” William Stein, an analyst at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, said in a recent note to clients. “AI at the Edge is an emerging idea, but one that could deliver significant revenue quickly. The idea is essentially take AI compute out of the data centres, and place it in platforms and products all around us.”

Stein is talking about a potential new area for artificial intelligence, which is in its nascent stages now. Nvidia’s data center business is all about “training”, or fine-tuning, artificial intelligence systems so that they work well with real-world data. Once those systems are trained, they can be deployed and used on things like drones, autonomous cars or refrigerators, to name a few examples.

When a trained AI system is used to interpret real-world data, it’s called “inference,” and Nvidia is working on specialty chips for this purpose.

One of Nvidia’s first moves into the AI edge inference market comes in the form of a partnership with JD.com to power delivery drones with its new chips. The drones are being tested in smaller Chinese markets now, but JD.com hopes to deploy more than 1 million drones in the next five years.

As more companies begin deploying AI edge devices, Nvidia’s early start on the market could prove to be a big advantage, Stein said. Because of this, and continuing strength in the data center business, Stein raised his price target for Nvidia from $US181.00 to $US200.00.

Nvidia is up 76.46% this year.

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