A Transprecision Floating-Point Platform for Ultra-Low Power Computing

28 Nov 2017  ·  Tagliavini Giuseppe, Mach Stefan, Rossi Davide, Marongiu Andrea, Benini Luca ·

In modern low-power embedded platforms, floating-point (FP) operations emerge as a major contributor to the energy consumption of compute-intensive applications with large dynamic range. Experimental evidence shows that 50% of the energy consumed by a core and its data memory is related to FP computations... The adoption of FP formats requiring a lower number of bits is an interesting opportunity to reduce energy consumption, since it allows to simplify the arithmetic circuitry and to reduce the memory bandwidth between memory and registers by enabling vectorization. From a theoretical point of view, the adoption of multiple FP types perfectly fits with the principle of transprecision computing, allowing fine-grained control of approximation while meeting specified constraints on the precision of final results. In this paper we propose an extended FP type system with complete hardware support to enable transprecision computing on low-power embedded processors, including two standard formats (binary32 and binary16) and two new formats (binary8 and binary16alt). First, we introduce a software library that enables exploration of FP types by tuning both precision and dynamic range of program variables. Then, we present a methodology to integrate our library with an external tool for precision tuning, and experimental results that highlight the clear benefits of introducing the new formats. Finally, we present the design of a transprecision FP unit capable of handling 8-bit and 16-bit operations in addition to standard 32-bit operations. Experimental results on FP-intensive benchmarks show that up to 90% of FP operations can be safely scaled down to 8-bit or 16-bit formats. Thanks to precision tuning and vectorization, execution time is decreased by 12% and memory accesses are reduced by 27% on average, leading to a reduction of energy consumption up to 30%. read more

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