SiFive, ArchiTek Announce High-Efficiency Sub-1W Edge AI Processor, the AiOnIc

New part makes impressive efficiency claims, but is currently available only as a prototype chip with pricing yet to be confirmed.

SiFive, a pioneer of the RISC-V free and open source instruction set architecture (ISA), has announced the fruit of its work with ArchiTek Corporation: AiOnIc, an edge AI processor that combines SiFive's E3-series RISC-V cores with ArchiTek's Intelligence Pixel Engine (aIPE).

"AiOnIc delivers the holy grail for Edge AI processors by delivering true high performance with extremely low power at a fraction of the price of GPUs," says Shuichi Takada, ArchiTek's chief executive. "Our groundbreaking ArchiTek Intelligence computer architecture, combined with our low-cost AiOnIc processor, opens the door to deliver the promise of AR, VR, smart cities and countless other 21st century use cases by proliferating AI on the edge."

"Edge AI is a massive opportunity for new architectures that can deliver low-power, area-optimized designs," adds Chris Lattner, president of engineering & product at SiFive. "The power of SiFive RISC-V Core IP combined with AI accelerators and other compute elements enable the flexibility and programmability needed for shifting AI applications."

Designed for edge artificial intelligence workloads, the AiOnIc architecture is claimed to combine the best of performance and efficiency - boasting a twentyfold performance improvement in simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) over using a general-purpose CPU and a near fourfold boost for pose estimation via OpenPose when compared to a GPU.

As well as the AiOnIc architecture and 32-bit E3-series RISC-V core, the 12nm-process chip includes hardware for signal processing, general-purpose sort, fast Fourier transformation (FFT), matrix multiply-add (MMA), and graphics workloads, along with 8MB of static RAM (SRAM) and DDR4, Ethernet, UART, I2C, and "other standard interfaces." Powered at either 0.9V or 1.8V, the part is claimed consume less than 1W.

The chip isn't quite ready to ship yet, however: ArchiTek describes the device as a "prototype LSI," which will target smart security cameras, drones, robots, autonomous vehicles, and other edge AI areas β€” but for which there is not yet any pricing nor availability information.

More information on the technology behind the chip is available on the ArchiTek website.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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