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Arm Upgrades AI Platform

February 11, 2020

Arm made significant additions to its artificial intelligence (AI) platform, including new machine learning (ML) IP, the Arm Cortex-M55 processor and Arm Ethos™-U55 NPU, the industry’s first microNPU (Neural Processing Unit) for Cortex-M, designed to deliver a combined 480x leap in ML performance to microcontrollers. The new IP and supporting unified toolchain enable AI hardware and software developers with more ways to innovate as a result of unprecedented levels of on-device ML processing for billions of small, power-constrained IoT and embedded devices.

“Enabling AI everywhere requires device makers and developers to deliver machine learning locally on billions, and ultimately trillions of devices,” said Dipti Vachani, senior vice president and general manager, Automotive and IoT Line of Business, Arm. “With these additions to our AI platform, no device is left behind as on-device ML on the tiniest devices will be the new normal, unleashing the potential of AI securely across a vast range of life-changing applications.”

As the IoT intersects with AI advancements and the rollout of 5G, more on-device intelligence means that smaller, cost-sensitive devices can be smarter and more capable while benefiting from greater privacy and reliability due to less reliance on the cloud or internet. By delivering this intelligence on microcontrollers designed securely from the ground up, Arm is reducing silicon and development costs and speeding up time to market for product manufacturers looking to efficiently enhance digital signal processing (DSP) and ML capabilities on-device.

Arm Cortex-M55: Arm’s most AI-capable Cortex-M processor

Cortex-M processors have become the computing platform of choice for developers, with Arm partners shipping more than 50 billion chips based on Cortex-M into a vast range of customer applications. With the addition of the Cortex-M55, Arm is offering its most AI-capable Cortex-M processor ever and the first based on the Armv8.1-M architecture with Arm Helium vector processing technology for significantly enhanced, energy-efficient DSP and ML performance. Cortex-M55 delivers up to a 15x uplift in ML performance and a 5x uplift in DSP performance, with greater efficiency, compared to previous Cortex-M generations.

Additionally, Arm Custom Instructions will be available to extend processor capabilities for specific workload optimization, a new feature for Cortex-M processors.

Ethos-U55: Arm’s first microNPU for Cortex-M

For even more demanding ML systems, the Cortex-M55 can be easily paired with the Ethos-U55, Arm’s first microNPU, together delivering a combined 480x increase in ML performance over existing Cortex-M processors.

The Ethos-U55 is highly configurable and specifically designed to accelerate ML inference in area-constrained embedded and IoT devices. Its advanced compression techniques save power and reduce ML model sizes significantly to enable execution of neural networks that previously only ran on larger systems.

Simplified software brings secure AI within reach of all developers

Arm understands the developer experience is fundamental to enabling the AI revolution. For this reason, Cortex-M55 and Ethos-U55 are fully supported by Arm’s industry leading Cortex-M software toolchain. This ensures a unified development flow for traditional, DSP and ML workloads – while specific integration and optimizations for leading machine learning frameworks, starting with TensorFlow Lite Micro, will ensure that developers have a seamless experience and get the best performance from any Cortex-M and Ethos-U55 configuration.

Arm believes security should never be an afterthought and is critical for IoT to scale. To ensure the most secure designs and provide a seamless route to PSA Certified products, these processors and the accompanying Corstone reference design work with Arm TrustZone to ensure security can be more easily incorporated into the complete system-on-chip.

Empowering the ecosystem

The new Cortex-M CPU and the Ethos microNPU underline Arm’s commitment to empower silicon designers and device manufacturers with the agility to innovate on the Arm architecture at even the smallest endpoints, igniting a new wave of creativity and innovation for the IoT. This technology is receiving widespread industry support from ecosystem partners, including Amazon, Alif Semiconductor, Bestechnic, Cypress, Dolby, Google, NXP, Samsung, STMicroelectronics and more.

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