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IBM announces 8-bit analog chip with projected phase-change memory

By Shawn Knight
Dec 3, 2018
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  1. In modern computing hardware, data is shuffled from memory to processors as needed. As IBM explains, this transitional period takes a lot of time and energy. With in-memory computing, however, memory units moonlight as processors, allowing them to serve as both storage and computation components.

    Eliminating the data shuffle between traditional memory and processor can reduce energy demand by as much as 90 percent.

    At the International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) and the Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS) this week, IBM is reporting 8-bit precision – the highest yet – for an analog chip, which the company says roughly doubles accuracy compared to previous analog chips. The new approach consumes 33x less energy than a digital architecture of similar precision, we’re told.

    IBM’s solution uses a new approach called projected phase-change memory (PCM), or Proj-PCM for short.

    [In Proj-PCM], we insert a non-insulating projection segment in parallel to the phase-change segment. During the write process, the projection segment has minimal impact on the operation of the device. However, during read, conductance values of programmed states are mostly determined by the projection segment, which is remarkably immune to conductance variations. This allows Proj-PCM devices to achieve much higher precision than previous PCM devices.

    IBM says the improved precision suggests in-memory computing could one day be used to achieve high-performance deep learning in low-power environments like IoT and edge applications.

    IBM is also introducing new approaches on the digital side, enabling the ability to train deep learning models with 8-bit precision while preserving model accuracy across image, speed and text dataset categories. These breakthroughs will be presented in a paper titled “Training Deep Neural Networks with 8-bit Floating Point Numbers.”

    Permalink to story.

  2. B5S46M

    B5S46M TS Enthusiast Posts: 20   +31

    The title is a bit misleading. 8-bit and analog are mutually exclusive. Analog by definition does not have quantized values. There is a key element missing in the article here to explain the digital-analog conundrum. IEEE's article also uses this title but also explains it.
    mbrowne5061 and Reehahs like this.
  3. fps4ever

    fps4ever TS Guru Posts: 286   +268

    Thank you. That had me a little confused as well.

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