Low-Voltage Energy Efficient Neural Inference by Leveraging Fault Detection Techniques

Operating at reduced voltages offers substantial energy efficiency improvement but at the expense of increasing the probability of computational errors due to hardware faults. In this context, we targeted Deep Neural Networks (DNN) as emerging energy hungry building blocks in embedded applications. Without an error feedback mechanism, blind voltage downscaling will result in degraded accuracy or total system failure. To enable safe voltage down-scaling, in this paper two solutions based on Self-Supervised Learning (SSL) and Algorithm Based Fault Tolerance (ABFT) were developed. A DNN model trained on MNIST data-set was deployed on a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) that operated at reduced voltages and employed the proposed schemes. The SSL approach provides extremely low-overhead (≈0.2%) fault detection at the cost of lower error coverage and extra training, while ABFT incurs less than 8% overheads at run-time with close to 100% error detection rate. By using the solutions, substantial energy savings, i.e., up to 40.3%, without compromising the accuracy of the model was achieved.