StreamNet: Memory-Efficient Streaming Tiny Deep Learning Inference on the Microcontroller

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Hong-Sheng Zheng, Yu-Yuan Liu, Chen-Fong Hsu, Tsung Tai Yeh


With the emerging Tiny Machine Learning (TinyML) inference applications, there is a growing interest when deploying TinyML models on the low-power Microcontroller Unit (MCU). However, deploying TinyML models on MCUs reveals several challenges due to the MCU’s resource constraints, such as small flash memory, tight SRAM memory budget, and slow CPU performance. Unlike typical layer-wise inference, patch-based inference reduces the peak usage of SRAM memory on MCUs by saving small patches rather than the entire tensor in the SRAM memory. However, the processing of patch-based inference tremendously increases the amount of MACs against the layer-wise method. Thus, this notoriously computational overhead makes patch-based inference undesirable on MCUs. This work designs StreamNet that employs the stream buffer to eliminate the redundant computation of patch-based inference. StreamNet uses 1D and 2D streaming processing and provides an parameter selection algorithm that automatically improve the performance of patch-based inference with minimal requirements on the MCU’s SRAM memory space. In 10 TinyML models, StreamNet-2D achieves a geometric mean of 7.3X speedup and saves 81\% of MACs over the state-of-the-art patch-based inference.