Arm unleashes edge AI performance in IoT devices with Cortex-M52

While data center AI has been getting much more attention, efforts continue to push AI capabilities to the edge as well. The latest evidence of this is Arm’s just announced addition to its Cortex-M processor portfolio–the Cortex-M52–which it aims to bring high levels of AI and machine learning (ML) processing without the need for accelerators

That would make the Cortex-M52 ideal for placement in small IoT devices and other edge endpoints with embedded computing needs that can benefit from a boost in digital signal processing (DSP) and AI/ML performance but without the cost overhead of dedicated DSP and ML accelerators. These benefits come from the leveraging of Arm's Helium ML-optimized architecture, according to Paul Williamson, senior vice president and general manager of the IoT Line of Business at Arm.

“Our partners wanted to take Helium’s capabilities into smaller devices with a lower silicon area and lower power consumption, where there was hope to deliver greater ML-optimized performance and efficiency [in AI IoT applications, or to use Arm’s pet term, AIoT]” he said during a recent media briefing. “We see the Cortex-M52 addressing a wide range of smaller, low-power applications, including predictive maintenance, motor control, power management, and even voice and gesture-led machine interactions, as well as remote wellness monitoring. What our partners need at this end of the market is ML and DSP performance, but also more compute efficiency, maintaining higher security levels and more robustness in their design.”

A blog post by Williamson added, “The Cortex-M52 provides a simplified migration path from the Cortex-M33 and Cortex-M4, addressing a wide range of AIoT applications to enable richer UI, voice and vision experiences, such as automotive and industrial control, predictive maintenance, and wearable sensor fusion.”

First silicon for the new processor is expected next year, and it will leverage software  compatibility with other Cortex-M devices, about 100 billion of which have shipped worldwide thus far, Williamson said. Specific to the performance improvements, the Cortex-M52 delivers  up to 5.6x performance uplift for ML and up to 2.7x performance uplift for digital signal processing compared to previous Cortex-M generations, according to Arm data. In addition, the processor’s size is more than 20% reduced from previous devices.

It also has the latest security extensions for Armv8.1-M, including PACBTI and Arm TrustZone technology, making it Arm’s smallest device with TrustZone. In addition, Cortex-M52 will accelerate the route to PSA Certified Level 2 silicon, enabling the next generation of PSA Certified devices. The latest Armv8.1-M cores (including Cortex-M55 and Cortex-M85) also offer enhanced functional safety features that are crucial in many automotive and industrial control applications, the company said.