• China's Sunway TaihuLight, the world's fastest supercomputer.

China's Sunway TaihuLight, the world's fastest supercomputer. (Photo : National Supercomputing Center )

Japan will start building the world's fastest supercomputer by 2017 with generous funding by a Japanese government eager for Japan to regain its place at the pinnacle of world computing and electronics it enjoyed in the late 20th century, and plans to dominate Artificial Intelligence (AI) research and development.

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Drawing on government funding amounting to $173 million (Yen 19.5 billion), Japanese engineers will build a supercomputer with a speed of 130 petaFLOPS (or 130 quadrillion calculations) per second. This machine, which will be called "AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure (ABCI)," will be developed at the ‎National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Tokyo.

AIST said ABCI will be an open innovation platform for very advanced research and development into AI.  ABCI is expected to rapidly accelerate the deployment of AI into Japanese businesses and society and will be suitable for AI, Machine Learning and Deep Learning projects.

ABCI's 130 petaFLOPS speed will easily eclipse the current holder of the world's fastest supercomputer crown: China's Sunway TaihuLight capable of 93 petaFLOPS. Sunway Taihulight is being used for weather forecasting, pharmaceutical research and industrial design, among others.

The United States, which owned the world's fastest supercomputer before TaihuLight displaced it in 2015, is planning to build an even more powerful supercomputer capable of 250 petaFLOPS. This American monster will be dedicated to advancing research into AI.

Administered by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, AIST integrates scientific and engineering knowledge to address socio-economic needs.

"As far as we know, there is nothing out there that is as fast," said Satoshi Sekiguchi, AIST director general.

He said ABCI will help tap medical records to develop new services and applications. Bidding for the project has begun and will close on Dec. 8.

News that China now owns the world's fastest supercomputer also ignited a race to build the world's first exascale supercomputer.

When it's built, an exascale supercomputer will automatically become the world's fastest since one exaFLOPS is equivalent to 1018 or 1,000 petaFLOPS. China plans to have its first exaFLOPS machine up and running by 2020 while the United States sees 2023 as its deadline.