Benefits of FPGAs over other options for AI and Machine Learning

No single architecture is best for AI, machine and deep learning applications, but in certain cases, FPGAs can offer distinct advantages over GPUs and other types of hardware.

What is an FPGA?

Field programmable gate arrays are semiconductor devices based around a matrix of configurable logic blocks. Unlike graphics processing units (GPUs) the circuitry inside an FPGA is not hard etched and as such, it can be programmed and reprogrammed as necessary.

Benefits of an FPGA?

The ability to be programmed or reprogrammed gives FPGAs a significant advantage in development when compared to developing custom application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), which require time and money to design and fabricate.

Sundance has been working on a multitude of robotics projects and FPGAs are proving to be a great benefit in this area. Their low power consumption means they are ideal to be battery powered and the small form-factor of the chipsets makes it easier to find a position for them to be mounted. Using them on drones, not only is their relatively small size an advantage, but also their low weight.

In these robotics examples where the FPGA is performing tasks for object recognition and also navigation, the low latency of the FPGA enables the time of flight calculations to be more accurate.

FPGAs in Artificial Intelligence

Image recognition can rely heavily on parallelism, and as GPUs excel at parallel processing, using them for this AI task became popular. However, GPUs don’t deliver as much performance as an ASIC, a chip purpose-built for a given deep learning workload. FPGAs can be seen as the best of both worlds, they offer hardware customisation with integrated AI and can be programmed to deliver behaviour similar to a GPU or an ASIC.

The reprogrammable, reconfigurable nature of an FPGA lends itself well to a rapidly evolving AI landscape, allowing designers to test algorithms quickly and get to market fast. FPGAs offer several advantages for deep learning applications and other AI workloads: Great performance with high throughput and low latency: FPGAs can inherently provide low latency as well as deterministic latency for real-time applications like video streaming, transcription, and action recognition by directly ingesting video into the FPGA, bypassing a CPU.

Designers can build a neural network from the ground up and structure the FPGA to best suit the model. Excellent value and cost: FPGAs can be reprogrammed for different functionalities and data types, making them one of the most cost-effective hardware options available.

Trenz Electronic FPGA Modules

Trenz Electronic specialize in the design of high-speed data acquisition, high-accuracy measurement and embedded digital signal processing systems based on FPGA and CPU architectures. Many of the products are compatible with some widespread form factors. They also provide SoM products for the Automotive industry and high-end applications.

Sundance is the distributor of Trenz Electronic products for the UK. Please contact us with any requirements or download the 2021 PDF catalogue below.

FPGA Applications

Xilinx is the industry leader in FPGA production and they provide FPGA devices, software and configurable, ready to use IP cores for markets and applications such as those shown below. Sundance has worked with Xilinx products for 30 years (since using the XC3090 on the SMT308 in 1991) and as a long time certified member of the Xilinx Alliance Program we are able to offer our customers the benefit of our experience and expertise with these devices and technologies.

  • Aerospace & Defense – Radiation-tolerant FPGAs along with intellectual property for image processing, waveform generation, and partial reconfiguration for SDRs.
  • ASIC Prototyping – ASIC prototyping with FPGAs enables fast and accurate SoC system modeling and verification of embedded software
  • Audio – Xilinx FPGAs and targeted design platforms enable higher degrees of flexibility, faster time-to-market, and lower overall non-recurring engineering costs (NRE) for a wide range of audio, communications, and multimedia applications.
  • Automotive – Automotive silicon and IP solutions for gateway and driver assistance systems, comfort, convenience, and in-vehicle infotainment. – Learn how Xilinx FPGA’s enable Automotive Systems
  • Broadcast & Pro AV – Adapt to changing requirements faster and lengthen product life cycles with Broadcast Targeted Design Platforms and solutions for high-end professional broadcast systems.
  • Consumer Electronics – Cost-effective solutions enabling next generation, full-featured consumer applications, such as converged handsets, digital flat panel displays, information appliances, home networking, and residential set top boxes.
  • Data Center – Designed for high-bandwidth, low-latency servers, networking, and storage applications to bring higher value into cloud deployments.
  • High-Performance Computing and Data Storage – Solutions for Network Attached Storage (NAS), Storage Area Network (SAN), servers, and storage appliances.
  • Industrial – Xilinx FPGAs and targeted design platforms for Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) enable higher degrees of flexibility, faster time-to-market, and lower overall non-recurring engineering costs (NRE) for a wide range of applications such as industrial imaging and surveillance, industrial automation, and medical imaging equipment.
  • Medical – For diagnostic, monitoring, and therapy applications, the Virtex FPGA and Spartan® FPGA families can be used to meet a range of processing, display, and I/O interface requirements.
  • Security – Xilinx offers solutions that meet the evolving needs of security applications, from access control to surveillance and safety systems.
  • Video & Image Processing – Xilinx FPGAs and targeted design platforms enable higher degrees of flexibility, faster time-to-market, and lower overall non-recurring engineering costs (NRE) for a wide range of video and imaging applications.
  • Wired Communications – End-to-end solutions for the Reprogrammable Networking Linecard Packet Processing, Framer/MAC, serial backplanes, and more
  • Wireless Communications – RF, base band, connectivity, transport and networking solutions for wireless equipment, addressing standards such as WCDMA, HSDPA, WiMAX and others.

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