Publications / Other Report

An introduction to neuromorphic computing and its potential impact for unattended ground sensors

Hill, Aaron J.; Vineyard, Craig M.

Neuromorphic computers are hardware systems that mimic the brain’s computational process phenomenology. This is in contrast to neural network accelerators, such as the Google TPU or the Intel Neural Compute Stick, which seek to accelerate the fundamental computation and data flows of neural network models used in the field of machine learning. Neuromorphic computers emulate the integrate and fire neuron dynamics of the brain to achieve a spiking communication architecture for computation. While neural networks are brain-inspired, they drastically oversimplify the brain’s computation model. Neuromorphic architectures are closer to the true computation model of the brain (albeit, still simplified). Neuromorphic computing models herald a 1000x power improvement over conventional CPU architectures. Sandia National Labs is a major contributor to the research community on neuromorphic systems by performing design analysis, evaluation, and algorithm development for neuromorphic computers. Space-based remote sensing development has been a focused target of funding for exploratory research into neuromorphic systems for their potential advantage in that program area; SNL has led some of these efforts. Recently, neuromorphic application evaluation has reached the NA-22 program area. This same exploratory research and algorithm development should penetrate the unattended ground sensor space for SNL’s mission partners and program areas. Neuromorphic computing paradigms offer a distinct advantage for the SWaP-constrained embedded systems of our diverse sponsor-driven program areas.