Lightweight Deep Neural Network Accelerators Using Approximate SW/HW Techniques

  • Hokchhay Tann
  • Soheil Hashemi
  • Sherief RedaEmail author


Deep neural networks (DNNs) provide state-of-the-art accuracy performances in many application domains, such as computer vision and speech recognition. At the same time, DNNs require millions of expensive floating-point operations to process each input, which limit their applicability to resource-constrained systems that are limited in hardware design area or power consumption. Our goal is to devise lightweight, approximate accelerators for DNN accelerations that use less hardware resources with negligible reduction in accuracy. To simplify the hardware requirements, we analyze a spectrum of data precision methods ranging from fixed-point, dynamic fixed-point, powers-of-two to binary data precision. In conjunction, we provide new training methods to compensate for the simpler hardware resources. To boost the accuracy of the proposed lightweight accelerators, we describe ensemble processing techniques that use an ensemble of lightweight DNN accelerators to achieve the same or better accuracy than the original floating-point accelerator, while still using much less hardware resources. Using 65 nm technology libraries and industrial-strength design flow, we demonstrate a custom hardware accelerator design and training procedure which achieve low-power, low-latency while incurring insignificant accuracy degradation. We evaluate our design and technique on the CIFAR-10 and ImageNet datasets and show that significant reduction in power and inference latency is realized.



We would like to thank Professor R. Iris Bahar and N. Anthony for their contributions to this project [8, 25]. In comparison to our two previous publications in [8, 25], we provide in this chapter additional experimental results for various quantization schemes and ensemble deployment. More specifically, the novel contributions in this chapter include implementations of accelerators capable of performing ensemble inference for fixed-point (16,16), (8,8), and power-of-two (6,16). We also provide the performance evaluations of these accelerators in side-by-side comparisons to those from our previous works in Figs. 14.7 and 14.8. We also generalize our ensemble technique to boost the accuracy to all types of quantized networks and not just dynamic fixed-point. The additional results contributed in this chapter complete the gaps between our two previous publications, which allow for a more complete design space exploration for approximate deep neural network accelerators. This work is supported by NSF grant 1420864 and by the generous GPU hardware donations from NVIDIA Corporation.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Brown UniversityProvidenceUSA

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