Neuromorphic computing, which aims to replicate the computational structure and architecture of the brain in synthetic hardware, has typically focused on artificial intelligence applications. What is less explored is whether such brain-inspired hardware can provide value beyond cognitive tasks. Here we show that the high degree of parallelism and configurability of spiking neuromorphic architectures makes them well suited to implement random walks via discrete-time Markov chains. These random walks are useful in Monte Carlo methods, which represent a fundamental computational tool for solving a wide range of numerical computing tasks. Using IBM’s TrueNorth and Intel’s Loihi neuromorphic computing platforms, we show that our neuromorphic computing algorithm for generating random walk approximations of diffusion offers advantages in energy-efficient computation compared with conventional approaches. We also show that our neuromorphic computing algorithm can be extended to more sophisticated jump-diffusion processes that are useful in a range of applications, including financial economics, particle physics and machine learning.
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.
Boolean functions and binary arithmetic operations are central to standard computing paradigms. Accordingly, many advances in computing have focused upon how to make these operations more efficient as well as exploring what they can compute. To best leverage the advantages of novel computing paradigms it is important to consider what unique computing approaches they offer. However, for any special-purpose co-processor, Boolean functions and binary arithmetic operations are useful for, among other things, avoiding unnecessary I/O on-and-off the co-processor by pre- and post-processing data on-device. This is especially true for spiking neuromorphic architectures where these basic operations are not fundamental low-level operations. Instead, these functions require specific implementation. Here we discuss the implications of an advantageous streaming binary encoding method as well as a handful of circuits designed to exactly compute elementary Boolean and binary operations.
The widely parallel, spiking neural networks of neuromorphic processors can enable computationally powerful formulations. While recent interest has focused on primarily machine learning tasks, the space of appropriate applications is wide and continually expanding. Here, we leverage the parallel and event-driven structure to solve a steady state heat equation using a random walk method. The random walk can be executed fully within a spiking neural network using stochastic neuron behavior, and we provide results from both IBM TrueNorth and Intel Loihi implementations. Additionally, we position this algorithm as a potential scalable benchmark for neuromorphic systems.
Remote sensing (RS) data collection capabilities are rapidly evolving hyper-spectrally (sensing more spectral bands), hyper-temporally (faster sampling rates) and hyper-spatially (increasing number of smaller pixels). Accordingly, sensor technologies have outpaced transmission capa- bilities introducing a need to process more data at the sensor. While many sophisticated data processing capabilities are emerging, power and other hardware requirements for these approaches on conventional electronic systems place them out of context for resource constrained operational environments. To address these limitations, in this research effort we have investigated and char- acterized neural-inspired architectures to determine suitability for implementing RS algorithms In doing so, we have been able to highlight a 100x performance per watt improvement using neu- romorphic computing as well as developed an algorithmic architecture co-design and exploration capability.
The rise of low-power neuromorphic hardware has the potential to change high-performance computing; however much of the focus on brain-inspired hardware has been on machine learning applications. A low-power solution for solving partial differential equations could radically change how we approach large-scale computing in the future. The random walk is a fundamental stochastic process that underlies many numerical tasks in scientific computing applications. We consider here two neural algorithms that can be used to efficiently implement random walks on spiking neuromorphic hardware. The first method tracks the positions of individual walkers independently by using a modular code inspired by grid cells in the brain. The second method tracks the densities of random walkers at each spatial location directly. We present the scaling complexity of each of these methods and illustrate their ability to model random walkers under different probabilistic conditions. Finally, we present implementations of these algorithms on neuromorphic hardware.
Unlike general purpose computer architectures that are comprised of complex processor cores and sequential computation, the brain is innately parallel and contains highly complex connections between computational units (neurons). Key to the architecture of the brain is a functionality enabled by the combined effect of spiking communication and sparse connectivity with unique variable efficacies and temporal latencies. Utilizing these neuroscience principles, we have developed the Spiking Temporal Processing Unit (STPU) architecture which is well-suited for areas such as pattern recognition and natural language processing. In this paper, we formally describe the STPU, implement the STPU on a field programmable gate array, and show measured performance data.
Information in neural networks is represented as weighted connections, or synapses, between neurons. This poses a problem as the primary computational bottleneck for neural networks is the vector-matrix multiply when inputs are multiplied by the neural network weights. Conventional processing architectures are not well suited for simulating neural networks, often requiring large amounts of energy and time. Additionally, synapses in biological neural networks are not binary connections, but exhibit a nonlinear response function as neurotransmitters are emitted and diffuse between neurons. Inspired by neuroscience principles, we present a digital neuromorphic architecture, the Spiking Temporal Processing Unit (STPU), capable of modeling arbitrary complex synaptic response functions without requiring additional hardware components. We consider the paradigm of spiking neurons with temporally coded information as opposed to non-spiking rate coded neurons used in most neural networks. In this paradigm we examine liquid state machines applied to speech recognition and show how a liquid state machine with temporal dynamics maps onto the STPU - demonstrating the flexibility and efficiency of the STPU for instantiating neural algorithms.