Startup wants to be the ARM of neuromorphic cores

November 30, 2015 // By Peter Clarke
A recently formed startup company BrainChip Inc. (Aliso Viejo, Calif.) wants to bring the advantages of hardware-based neuromorphic processing – mainly low power consumption – to market by partnering with chip companies in such areas as mobile phones and the Internet of Things.

The company has told EE Times Europe that it has developed its first core, the SNAP-64 processor, and plans to follow an "ARM-like" business model. In other words it will license its technology and circuit designs for use by semiconductor companies and will receive a royalty – typically a percentage of the chip price – on each chip sold that includes its intellectual property.
 

The company's technology, based on spiking neural networks, has been in development for many years although the company was founded in December 2013. It is largely the result of several years work by Peter Van Der Made, chief technology officer and interim CEO. Spiking neural networks are modelled much more closely on human brain activity that conventional weighted neural networks in that they transmit information by a series of pulses from neuron to neuron.

Unusually for a startup BrainChip is already a public company having been supported and funded through a reverse takeover by a former Australian minerals exploration company, Aziana Ltd. Earlier this year Aziana acquired BrainChip Inc and changed the name to Brain Chip Holdings Ltd. but brings with it cash resources and a listing on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX).

BrainChip is not the first company to seek to implement neural networks in hardware. IBM has announced its TrueNorth chip (see IBM True North puts brain on a chip ), Qualcomm's Zeroth processor core is included on its Snapdragon 820 system chip and Intel has included a neural network core for pattern classification inside its Quark SE chip courtesy of a licensing deal. NeuroMem Inc. (Petaluma, Calif.) offers the technology for license and in chip form (see Startup's tech is Intel's Quark neural network ).

However, BrainChip claims its model of brain activity is superior and its performance faster because of the fact that it uses a spiking model of the neural network information transfer. That said, Qualcomm claims its Zeroth processor