SkyNet: a Hardware-Efficient Method for Object Detection and Tracking on Embedded Systems

Object detection and tracking are challenging tasks for resource-constrained embedded systems. While these tasks are among the most compute-intensive tasks from the artificial intelligence domain, they are only allowed to use limited computation and memory resources on embedded devices. In the meanwhile, such resource-constrained implementations are often required to satisfy additional demanding requirements such as real-time response, high-throughput performance, and reliable inference accuracy. To overcome these challenges, we propose SkyNet, a hardware-efficient neural network to deliver the state-of-the-art detection accuracy and speed for embedded systems. Instead of following the common top-down flow for compact DNN (Deep Neural Network) design, SkyNet provides a bottom-up DNN design approach with comprehensive understanding of the hardware constraints at the very beginning to deliver hardware-efficient DNNs. The effectiveness of SkyNet is demonstrated by winning the competitive System Design Contest for low power object detection in the 56th IEEE/ACM Design Automation Conference (DAC-SDC), where our SkyNet significantly outperforms all other 100+ competitors: it delivers 0.731 Intersection over Union (IoU) and 67.33 frames per second (FPS) on a TX2 embedded GPU; and 0.716 IoU and 25.05 FPS on an Ultra96 embedded FPGA. The evaluation of SkyNet is also extended to GOT-10K, a recent large-scale high-diversity benchmark for generic object tracking in the wild. For state-of-the-art object trackers SiamRPN++ and SiamMask, where ResNet-50 is employed as the backbone, implementations using our SkyNet as the backbone DNN are 1.60X and 1.73X faster with better or similar accuracy when running on a 1080Ti GPU, and 37.20X smaller in terms of parameter size for significantly better memory and storage footprint.

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