One Timestep is All You Need: Training Spiking Neural Networks with Ultra Low Latency

Spiking Neural Networks (SNNs) are energy efficient alternatives to commonly used deep neural networks (DNNs). Through event-driven information processing, SNNs can reduce the expensive compute requirements of DNNs considerably, while achieving comparable performance. However, high inference latency is a significant hindrance to the edge deployment of deep SNNs. Computation over multiple timesteps not only increases latency as well as overall energy budget due to higher number of operations, but also incurs memory access overhead of fetching membrane potentials, both of which lessen the energy benefits of SNNs. To overcome this bottleneck and leverage the full potential of SNNs, we propose an Iterative Initialization and Retraining method for SNNs (IIR-SNN) to perform single shot inference in the temporal axis. The method starts with an SNN trained with T timesteps (T>1). Then at each stage of latency reduction, the network trained at previous stage with higher timestep is utilized as initialization for subsequent training with lower timestep. This acts as a compression method, as the network is gradually shrunk in the temporal domain. In this paper, we use direct input encoding and choose T=5, since as per literature, it is the minimum required latency to achieve satisfactory performance on ImageNet. The proposed scheme allows us to obtain SNNs with up to unit latency, requiring a single forward pass during inference. We achieve top-1 accuracy of 93.05 ImageNet, respectively using VGG16, with just 1 timestep. In addition, IIR-SNNs perform inference with 5-2500X reduced latency compared to other state-of-the-art SNNs, maintaining comparable or even better accuracy. Furthermore, in comparison with standard DNNs, the proposed IIR-SNNs provide25-33X higher energy efficiency, while being comparable to them in classification performance.


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