Quantized Neural Networks: Training Neural Networks with Low Precision Weights and Activations

Itay Hubara, Matthieu Courbariaux, Daniel Soudry, Ran El-Yaniv, Yoshua Bengio
Department of Electrical Engineering, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel
arXiv:1609.07061 [cs.NE], (22 Sep 2016)


   title={Quantized Neural Networks: Training Neural Networks with Low Precision Weights and Activations},

   author={Hubara, Itay and Courbariaux, Matthieu and Soudry, Daniel and El-Yaniv, Ran and Bengio, Yoshua},






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We introduce a method to train Quantized Neural Networks (QNNs) — neural networks with extremely low precision (e.g., 1-bit) weights and activations, at run-time. At train-time the quantized weights and activations are used for computing the parameter gradients. During the forward pass, QNNs drastically reduce memory size and accesses, and replace most arithmetic operations with bit-wise operations. As a result, power consumption is expected to be drastically reduced. We trained QNNs over the MNIST, CIFAR-10, SVHN and ImageNet datasets. The resulting QNNs achieve prediction accuracy comparable to their 32-bit counterparts. For example, our quantized version of AlexNet with 1-bit weights and 2-bit activations achieves 51% top-1 accuracy. Moreover, we quantize the parameter gradients to 6-bits as well which enables gradients computation using only bit-wise operation. Quantized recurrent neural networks were tested over the Penn Treebank dataset, and achieved comparable accuracy as their 32-bit counterparts using only 4-bits. Last but not least, we programmed a binary matrix multiplication GPU kernel with which it is possible to run our MNIST QNN 7 times faster than with an unoptimized GPU kernel, without suffering any loss in classification accuracy. The QNN code is available online.
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