Keywords: [ adversarial attack ] [ deep learning ] [ neural network ]
Neuromorphic neural network processors, in the form of compute-in-memory crossbar arrays of memristors, or in the form of subthreshold analog and mixed-signal ASICs, promise enormous advantages in compute density and energy efficiency for NN-based ML tasks. However, these technologies are prone to computational non-idealities, due to process variation and intrinsic device physics. This degrades the task performance of networks deployed to the processor, by introducing parameter noise into the deployed model. While it is possible to calibrate each device, or train networks individually for each processor, these approaches are expensive and impractical for commercial deployment. Alternative methods are therefore needed to train networks that are inherently robust against parameter variation, as a consequence of network architecture and parameters. We present a new network training algorithm that attacks network parameters during training, and promotes robust performance during inference in the face of random parameter variation. Our approach introduces a loss regularization term that penalizes the susceptibility of a network to weight perturbation. We compare against previous approaches for producing parameter insensitivity such as dropout, weight smoothing and introducing parameter noise during training. We show that our approach produces models that are more robust to random mismatch-induced parameter variation as well as to targeted parameter variation. Our approach finds minima in flatter locations in the weight-loss landscape compared with other approaches, highlighting that the networks found by our technique are less sensitive to parameter perturbation. Our work provides an approach to deploy neural network architectures to inference devices that suffer from computational non-idealities, with minimal loss of performance. This method will enable deployment at scale to novel energy-efficient computational substrates, promoting cheaper and more prevalent edge inference.