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AI / Data / Edge Computing

Edge AI and Model Quantization for Real-Time Analytics

Innovation in model quantization and compression is making the deployment of powerful artificial intelligence models at the edge possible.
Dec 18th, 2023 6:30am by
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Featured image by Stavros Messios on Unsplash.

Edge AI, or the deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) at the edge, is poised to drive significant innovation across industries. With edge AI, organizations can make faster decisions without relying on the cloud and data centers. However, computational constraints on edge devices and challenges with implementing highly accurate AI models remain barriers to leveraging these technologies.

Model quantization, a method that enhances computational speed by improving portability and reducing model size, is crucial in addressing these challenges. It helps enable the deployment of models for quicker and more efficient edge AI solutions. Advancements such as generalized post-training quantization (GPTQ), low-rank adaptation (LoRA) and quantized low-rank adaptation (QLoRA) can enable real-time analytics and better decision-making at the edge. While edge AI is still an emerging approach, when integrated with appropriate tools and techniques, it has the potential to transform how enterprises use and benefit from intelligent devices.

Trajectory of Edge AI

The integration of edge and AI is reshaping the way organizations handle data processing. IDC forecasts that edge computing spending will reach $317 billion in 2026. Additionally, edge momentum is accelerating with AI adoption, with IDC predicting that by 2027 the AI market will reach nearly $251 billion.

Edge AI brings data processing and models closer to the location where data is created. This facilitates real-time AI processing. It also introduces many other advantages.

  • Decreased latency and increased speed: AI inferencing is done locally, removing the need for transmitting data back and forth to the cloud. This is crucial for applications that require real-time data and demand immediate responses.
  • Better data security and privacy: Keeping data on the device greatly reduces the security risks linked to data transmission and leakage.
  • Improved scalability: Edge AI is a decentralized approach that simplifies the scalability of applications by eliminating the dependence on a central data center for processing power.

Enter Model Quantization

To ensure the effectiveness of edge AI, it is crucial to optimize AI models for high performance while maintaining accuracy. Yet the growing complexity and size of AI models create challenges when deploying them on edge devices, which typically have limited resources.

Innovation in model quantization and compression is making the deployment of powerful AI models at the edge possible. Model quantization involves lowering the numerical precision of model parameters, resulting in lightweight models that are well-suited for edge deployments on devices, including mobile phones and embedded systems.

Three fine-tuning techniques, GPTQ, LoRA and QLoRA, have surfaced as transformative elements in the field of model quantization. The primary goal of these techniques is to make deployment and fine-tuning large language models (LLMs) more efficient and accessible, but they approach this goal differently.

GPTQ focuses on compressing models after training for better deployment, while LoRA and QLoRA are geared toward making fine-tuning large models more efficient. GPTQ is best suited for deploying already trained models in memory-constrained environments. LoRA and QLoRA are more suited for scenarios where fine-tuning large pre-trained models on new tasks or datasets is necessary with limited computational resources. Choosing between them depends on the project’s specific requirements, such as the stage of model development (fine-tuning vs. deployment) and the available computational resources.

Utilizing these quantization techniques enables developers to extend AI to the edge and establish a balance between performance and efficiency for various applications.

Edge AI Capabilities and Requirements

The uses of edge AI are widely varied — and growing.

For instance, a retailer can use edge AI-powered devices such as sensors and cameras to gather data on customer behavior. By looking at foot traffic or identifying areas with popular products, retailers can use the information to optimize store layouts, marketing strategies and more. As another example, by running AI and analyzing data locally on edge devices, manufacturers can detect defects, predict maintenance and control product quality. This enables manufacturers to make better use of real-time data, allowing them to reduce downtime and improve production efficiency.

As businesses look to bring inferencing to the edge, there is a growing need for robust stacks and databases dedicated to edge inferencing. These platforms need to support onsite data processing while providing the benefits of edge AI, including decreased latency and enhanced data privacy.

The success of edge AI relies on a persistent data layer essential for local and cloud-based data management. The rise of multimodal AI models underscores the need for a unified platform capable of handling diverse data types to meet the operational demands of edge computing. This allows seamless connection with local data repositories in both online and offline scenarios.

Looking Ahead

The convergence of AI, edge computing and edge database management is pivotal for achieving real-time and secure solutions. As the use cases for enterprise edge AI expand, organizations should concentrate on adopting effective edge strategies to optimize the use of their data and gain a competitive advantage for their businesses.

To deliver the fastest, most reliable apps possible, you need a database designed for edge computing. Learn more about Couchbase’s edge computing capabilities or try it out for free. To enhance developer productivity and accelerate time to market for modern applications, Couchbase introduced generative AI capabilities into Couchbase Capella. Learn more about Capella iQ and sign up for a private preview.

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