Former NASA Chief Offers Security, Silicon Innovation With KnuEdge

Startup KnuEdge debuts KnuPath processors and KnuVerse software to bring neural computing innovations to market.


For the last 11 years, Dan Goldin has been working in stealth building his new company called KnuEdge with the promise of delivering a new era of computing innovation. Those years of working in stealth is in stark contrast to the decade Goldin spent (from 1992 to 2001) as the administrator of NASA, leading the space agency in highly visible space shuttle and International Space Station efforts.

While KnuEdge has been stealth, Goldin has raised $100 million in funding, taking a long-term view of creating new technologies.

"When I left the U.S. government, I saw the tremendous need for machine intelligence because we live in a noisy world," Goldin told eWEEK. "Noise is not just hiss on a phone; noise is hacking, viruses, and it's having large volumes of unstructured data that can't be processed."

To that end, Goldin set out to establish new paradigms to handle the noise challenge in terms of both computing hardware innovation and software. He started off by learning more about neuroscience because he felt his new company should operate at the intersection of physics, computer science, mathematics and neuroscience.

"After 11 years of effort, working through fundamentally different approaches, we have a system of algorithms for speech and we have a computation platform," Goldin said.

The speech technology is called KnuVerse, and it provides voice authentication capabilities. Goldin explained that the first generation of KnuVerse is made up of algorithms that can go on different hardware systems.

"Our first release does authentication and identification as a security features," he said.

The KnuVerse technology is already protected against high-fidelity replay voice attacks, whereby an attacker simply records the victim's voice and uses it for authentication. KnuVerse includes a feature called Audio PIN (personal identification number), and it's a multifactor, real-time system that can mitigate the risk of a voice replay attack, according to Goldin. With Audio PIN, a user gets a unique PIN in real time that the user must speak aloud.

"The words flash on a screen in real time so someone couldn't have a recorded voice that would keep up with it," he said. "It's a very clever way that we've come up with to prevent a recording attack."

In addition to Audio PIN, KnuVerse is continuously authenticating and evaluating a speaker's voice. For example, with a bank, the KnuVerse voice authentication technology can verify that the right person is on the phone for the entire conversation, said Steve Cumings, chief marketing officer at KnuEdge.

For most applications, KnuVerse is relatively easy for organizations to get started with, Goldin said. The system can also just record 20 to 30 seconds of a natural conversation and then use that as the basis to make authentication decisions. Going a step further, KnuVerse will integrate with existing enterprise authentication systems.

"We're working with some large financial institutions now, and our preferred approach is to work with our APIs and integrate into existing systems," Goldin said. "We want to have seamless integration with other people's systems."

In addition to KnuVerse, KnuEdge is emerging from stealth with its KnuPath lineup of processors that aim to accelerate application and data processing operations. The initial KnuPath processors are 256-core chips that deliver up to 32G bps of throughput.

"Each one of the 256 cores can simultaneously process different algorithms," Goldin said. "Because of the close coupling of memory and processing, we have very low latency."

The KnuPath Lambda Fabric that ties chips together enables massive scale-out capabilities, with up to 512,000 chips in a single deployment.

While Goldin is aiming to learn from neuroscience and new approaches to technologies, the KnuPath processors are still silicon-based—for now.

"I wanted to have one new thing, a new architecture, and I didn't want to start with new materials," he said. "Our new architecture allows us to do a lot more with existing silicon technologies."

The current structure for KnuPath is such that the chips enable acceleration for a given workload. Cumings explained that KnuPath can connect to any "head" processor, whether it be an existing x86, Power or other existing computing platform. Currently, the KnuPath and KnuVerse technologies are separate, but moving forward, Goldin said that KnuEdge's plan is to integrate its semiconductor and software for further innovations.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.