Minimizing Area and Energy of Deep Learning Hardware Design Using Collective Low Precision and Structured Compression

Deep learning algorithms have shown tremendous success in many recognition tasks; however, these algorithms typically include a deep neural network (DNN) structure and a large number of parameters, which makes it challenging to implement them on power/area-constrained embedded platforms. To reduce the network size, several studies investigated compression by introducing element-wise or row-/column-/block-wise sparsity via pruning and regularization. In addition, many recent works have focused on reducing precision of activations and weights with some reducing down to a single bit. However, combining various sparsity structures with binarized or very-low-precision (2-3 bit) neural networks have not been comprehensively explored. In this work, we present design techniques for minimum-area/-energy DNN hardware with minimal degradation in accuracy. During training, both binarization/low-precision and structured sparsity are applied as constraints to find the smallest memory footprint for a given deep learning algorithm. The DNN model for CIFAR-10 dataset with weight memory reduction of 50X exhibits accuracy comparable to that of the floating-point counterpart. Area, performance and energy results of DNN hardware in 40nm CMOS are reported for the MNIST dataset. The optimized DNN that combines 8X structured compression and 3-bit weight precision showed 98.4% accuracy at 20nJ per classification.

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