Activation Density based Mixed-Precision Quantization for Energy Efficient Neural Networks

As neural networks gain widespread adoption in embedded devices, there is a need for model compression techniques to facilitate deployment in resource-constrained environments. Quantization is one of the go-to methods yielding state-of-the-art model compression... Most approaches take a fully trained model, apply different heuristics to determine the optimal bit-precision for different layers of the network, and retrain the network to regain any drop in accuracy. Based on Activation Density (AD)-the proportion of non-zero activations in a layer-we propose an in-training quantization method. Our method calculates bit-width for each layer during training yielding a mixed precision model with competitive accuracy. Since we train lower precision models during training, our approach yields the final quantized model at lower training complexity and also eliminates the need for re-training. We run experiments on benchmark datasets like CIFAR-10, CIFAR-100, TinyImagenet on VGG19/ResNet18 architectures and report the accuracy and energy estimates for the same. We achieve ~4.5x benefit in terms of estimated multiply-and-accumulate (MAC) reduction while reducing the training complexity by 50% in our experiments. To further evaluate the energy benefits of our proposed method, we develop a mixed-precision scalable Process In Memory (PIM) hardware accelerator platform. The hardware platform incorporates shift-add functionality for handling multi-bit precision neural network models. Evaluating the quantized models obtained with our proposed method on the PIM platform yields ~5x energy reduction compared to 16-bit models. Additionally, we find that integrating AD based quantization with AD based pruning (both conducted during training) yields up to ~198x and ~44x energy reductions for VGG19 and ResNet18 architectures respectively on PIM platform compared to baseline 16-bit precision, unpruned models. read more

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