Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 (NeurIPS 2021)
Ji Lin, Wei-Ming Chen, Han Cai, Chuang Gan, Song Han
Tiny deep learning on microcontroller units (MCUs) is challenging due to the limited memory size. We find that the memory bottleneck is due to the imbalanced memory distribution in convolutional neural network (CNN) designs: the first several blocks have an order of magnitude larger memory usage than the rest of the network. To alleviate this issue, we propose a generic patch-by-patch inference scheduling, which operates only on a small spatial region of the feature map and significantly cuts down the peak memory. However, naive implementation brings overlapping patches and computation overhead. We further propose receptive field redistribution to shift the receptive field and FLOPs to the later stage and reduce the computation overhead. Manually redistributing the receptive field is difficult. We automate the process with neural architecture search to jointly optimize the neural architecture and inference scheduling, leading to MCUNetV2. Patch-based inference effectively reduces the peak memory usage of existing networks by4-8×. Co-designed with neural networks, MCUNetV2 sets a record ImageNetaccuracy on MCU (71.8%) and achieves >90% accuracy on the visual wake words dataset under only 32kB SRAM. MCUNetV2 also unblocks object detection on tiny devices, achieving 16.9% higher mAP on Pascal VOC compared to the state-of-the-art result. Our study largely addressed the memory bottleneck in tinyML and paved the way for various vision applications beyond image classification.