Apple’s Head of Chip Design Talks About Face ID Security and More in Israeli Interview

Johny Srouji, Senior Vice President of Hardware Technologies at Apple, recently talked about Israel's contributions to Apple products, Face ID security, augmented reality, and more in a wide-ranging interview with Calcalist.


For context, Srouji leads the team responsible for custom silicon and hardware technologies like batteries, storage controllers, and application processors, including the new A11 Bionic chip in the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X.

The interview was published in Hebrew, so the quotes herein are loosely translated to English and may not be perfectly word for word.

Srouji started by complimenting Israel, where he was born and raised, for its significant contributions to Apple products. He said Apple now employs over 900 engineers in Israel, up from a reported 700 or so in 2015.

A few years ago, Apple opened research and development offices in Haifa, north of Tel Aviv, with the facilities serving as the iPhone maker's second-largest R&D operations outside of the United States at the time.

There, a team of engineers are focused on chip design, testing, and engineering, according to Apple's job listings over the years.

"The things we do in Israel are a significant part of every Apple device in the world," said Srouji. He went on to say "the team in Israel is part of this long-term vision of excellence and perfection, so we're here for the long term."

Apple has also acquired several Israeli companies over the years, including PrimeSense, which developed the original Kinect sensor for Xbox. PrimeSense's 3D sensing tech is believed to be at the core of Face ID on the iPhone X.

Apple later scooped up Israeli startup LinX, whose dual-lens camera technologies are likely used in the latest iPhone models. It also bought Israeli flash memory firm Anobit Technologies and facial recognition startup RealFace.

The interview later shifted to Face ID, which Srouji said is "the fastest and most secure" facial recognition system in the industry.

"Take the subject of user attention for identification," said Srouji. "If I am not fully aware of the device—i.e. looking at it with my face directly—there is no detection." He told the interviewer "you have to be happy about it because imagine you have the phone and I go aside and I can create a fake of it."

Srouji also reflected on Apple's new augmented reality platform ARKit. He said Apple is always looking far ahead with its chip designs, with a three-year roadmap leading into 2020. Read the full interview for his complete vision.



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Apple’s Hardware Tech Chief Johny Srouji to Speak at Carnegie Mellon Next Week

Johny Srouji, Senior Vice President of Hardware Technologies at Apple, will speak at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh next week.


The university's School of Computer Science today announced that Srouji will attend a distinguished industry lecture on Monday, September 18 at the Rashid Auditorium, where he will speak at 5:00 p.m. local time.
Carnegie Mellon didn't reveal what Srouji will be talking about, but at Apple, he leads the team responsible for custom silicon and hardware technologies like batteries, storage controllers, and application processors, including its new A11 Bionic chip in the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X.

An excerpt from his executive profile on Apple's website:
Johny has built one of the world’s strongest and most innovative teams of silicon and technology engineers, overseeing breakthrough custom silicon and hardware technologies including batteries, application processors, storage controllers, sensors silicon, display silicon and other chipsets across Apple's entire product line.

Johny joined Apple in 2008 to lead development of the A4, the first Apple-designed system on a chip. Prior to Apple, Johny held senior positions at Intel and IBM in the area of processor development and design. He earned both a bachelor's and master's degree in Computer Science from Technion, Israel’s Institute of Technology.
In a recent interview with Mashable, Srouji revealed that Apple began exploring and developing the core technologies in the A11 chip three years ago, when the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus launched with A8 chips.

The A11 Bionic is a six-core chip with two performance cores that are 25 percent faster, and four high-efficiency cores that are 70 percent faster, than the A10 chip in iPhone 7 models. Geekbench scores suggest the A11 Bionic is even on par with the performance of Apple's latest 13-inch MacBook Pro models.

(Thanks, Benedict Evans!)


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Apple Started Developing A11 Bionic Chip When A8 Chip Was Released Three Years Ago

Shortly after Apple's iPhone X event this week, the company's silicon chief Johny Srouji and marketing chief Phil Schiller sat down for an interview about its new A11 Bionic chip with Mashable's editor-at-large Lance Ulanoff.


One interesting tidbit mentioned was that Apple began exploring and developing the core technologies in the A11 chip at least three years ago, when the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus launched with A8 chips.
Srouji told me that when Apple architects silicon, they start by looking three years out, which means the A11 Bionic was under development when Apple was shipping the iPhone 6 and its A8 chip. Back then we weren't even talking about AI and machine learning at a mobile level and, yet, Srouji said, "The neural engine embed, it’s a bet we made three years ahead."
Apple's three-year roadmap can change if new features are planned, like the Super Retina HD Display in iPhone X.
"The process is flexible to changes," said Srouji, who’s been with Apple since the first iPhone. If a team comes in with a request that wasn't part of the original plan, "We need to make that happen. We don't say, 'No, let me get back to my road map and, five years later, I'll give you something."
Apple senior executives Phil Schiller, left, and Johny Srouji

In fact, Schiller praised Srouji's team for its ability to "move heaven and earth" when the roadmap suddenly changes.
"There have been some critical things in the past few years, where we've asked Johny's team to do something on a different schedule, on a different plan than they had in place for years, and they moved heaven and earth and done it, and it's remarkable to see."
A11 Bionic six-core chip has two performance cores that are 25 percent faster, and four high-efficiency cores that are 70 percent faster, than the A10 chip in iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Early benchmarks suggest the A11 Bionic is even on par with the performance of Apple's latest 13-inch MacBook Pro models.

The A11 chip is more efficient at multi-threaded tasks thanks to a second-generation performance controller that is able to access all six of the cores simultaneously if a particular task demands it.
Gaming might use more cores, said Srouji, but something as simple as predictive texting, where the system suggests the next word to type, can tap into the high-performance CPUs, as well.
The A11 chip also has an Apple-designed neural engine that handles facial recognition for Face ID and Animoji, and other machine learning algorithms. The dual-core engine recognizes people, places, and objects, and processes machine learning tasks at up to 600 billion operations per second, according to Apple.
“When you look at applications and software, there are certain algorithms that are better off using a functional programming model,” said Srouji.

This includes the iPhone X’s new face tracking and Face ID as well as the augmented-reality-related object detection. All of them use neural networks, machine learning or deep learning (which is part of machine learning). This kind of neural processing could run on a CPU or, preferably, a GPU. “But for these neural networking kinds of programming models, implementing custom silicon that’s targeted for that application, that will perform the exact same tasks, is much more energy efficient than a graphics engine,” said Srouji.
Apple's new iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X are all equipped with an A11 chip.

In related news, Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science has announced that Srouji will take part in a distinguished industry lecture on Monday, September 18 from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. local time.

Full Interview: The Inside Story of the iPhone X 'Brain,' the A11 Bionic Chip


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