UK neural modelling project boosts silicon power

15 March 2011
Paul Dempsey
Mobile version
Share |
Professor Steve Furber

ARM and now neural modelling pioneer, Professor Steve Furber

SpiNNaker set to receive new 18-core SoC to help reverse engineer the human brain.

A British research project working towards the Grand Challenge of reverse engineering the human brain is about to move into its second generation of silicon. The work will, for now, allow biologists and psychologists to work on modelling the brains of some lower-order animals.

 

The SpiNNaker (Spiking Neural Network Architecture) project, led out of the University of Manchester, is set to receive its first 18-core, ARM processor-based system-on-chip from foundry UMC in the next fortnight.

 

Professor Steve Furber, one of the pioneering ARM team and ICL Professor of Computer Engineering at Manchester, told the Design Automation and Test in Europe (DATE) conference in Grenoble, France that the 100 million-gate device would allow for the more detailed modelling of spiking neurons in real-time.

 

The new SpiNNaker chip replaces a two-core prototype that the team has been using for a little under two years. The chips are combined on boards in multiple configurations – the prototype uses four.

 

Other partners on the project include the Universities of Southampton, Sheffield and Cambridge, and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council as well as companies ARM, Silistix and Thales.

 

SpiNNaker has a mesh architecture where neurons are modelled to each individual processor. The main innovation is the interconnect fabric. Each chip has a router with a look-up table (LUT) that dynamically decides which processor or processors to direct a spike to.

 

To full mimic the human brain would require LUTs with millions of entries, but the team has optimised the table for the current version so that it requires only 1,000 to emulate realistic biological networks.

 

There is still a long way to go, Furber said. Having the computing power to model systems is one thing. “But we don’t know what to model,” he continued.

 

The longer-term goal is to build machines with 1.6 million ARM cores, but this is still some way from full simulation. By way of comparison, Furber said that 1 million ARM cores would still represent only one per cent of the human brain in terms of modeling capability. Human modelling is about a decade away.

 

“This has been a very large project by academic standards and I’m hopeful that it will produce interesting results very soon,” Furber said.

Latest Issue

E&T cover image 1606

"Where would Frankenstein and his creative mind fit into today's workplace? Should we fear technological developments or embrace them?"

E&T jobs

  • Graduate Electrical Engineers

    AECOM
    • United Kingdom and Ireland
    • Competitive

    Due to the diverse nature of our business there are many different teams each with very different responsibilities.

    • Recruiter: AECOM

    Apply for this job

  • Network Innovation Engineer / Analyst - UK Power Sector

    Premium job

    Nortech Management Ltd
    • Birmingham, West Midlands or Pershore (Worcestershire)
    • £30,000 - £35,000 (depending on experience) + benefits

    Network Innovation Engineer / Analyst to join a team of talented technology enthusiasts who design and support the low carbon networks of the future.

    • Recruiter: Nortech Management Ltd

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Engineer with Strong telecoms background

    Premium job

    Sure South Atlantic Ltd
    • Falkland Islands

    Sure South Atlantic Ltd currently has a unique engineering opportunity in their Falkland Islands office. Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, teeming ...

    • Recruiter: Sure South Atlantic Ltd

    Apply for this job

  • Cyber, Communication, Information and Data Scientist roles

    Premium job

    Dstl
    • Porton Down, Salisbury
    • Competitive salaries

    Information is everything. Use it to serve your country and help keep us safe.

    • Recruiter: Dstl

    Apply for this job

  • Production Engineer

    Premium job

    Compact Engineering
    • Thirsk / Leeds / Banbury / Colchester / Cambridge
    • Salary will be competitive and commensurate with experience, knowledge, aptitude and capability

    A Production Engineer with some knowledge and understanding of radiant energy transfer.

    • Recruiter: Compact Engineering

    Apply for this job

  • Electronics Engineer

    Premium job

    Nikon Metrology Europe
    • Tring, Hertfordshire

    Nikon Metrology is looking for an Electronics Engineer to join our Electronics Team based in Tring (UK).

    • Recruiter: Nikon Metrology Europe

    Apply for this job

  • Engineering Manager

    BAE Systems
    • Hampshire, England, Portsmouth
    • Competitive package

    Would you like to play a vital role in managing and implementing the correct governance in order to enable BAE Systems to provide assurance and integrity of supply chain data? We currently have a vacancy for an Engineering Manager - Product Integrity

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Engineering Project Manager - Electrical & Automation

    Nestle
    • York, North Yorkshire
    • c£45,000 + Car Allowance + Bonus + Excellent Benefits

    Nestlé Product Technology Centre in York currently has an excellent opportunity for an Engineering Project Manager

    • Recruiter: Nestle

    Apply for this job

  • Consultant Engineer - Test

    BAE Systems
    • Farnborough, Hampshire, England
    • Negotiable

    Consultant Engineer - Test Would you like to be a lead within an exciting team working on one of the UK's largest defence projects? We currently have a vacancy for a Consultant Engineer - Test at our site in Ash Vale. As a Consultant Engineer - Test, you

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • ELECTRICAL PROJECT ENGINEER

    SSE
    • Reading, Berkshire
    • SALARY: £37,588 TO £55,669 + CAR (SSE8/9), DEPENDING ON SKILLS AND EXPERIENCE

    SSE are looking to recruit an Electrical Project Engineer into office in Reading

    • Recruiter: SSE

    Apply for this job

More jobs ▶

Subscribe

Choose the way you would like to access the latest news and developments in your field.

Subscribe to E&T