Introducing Google Coral Edge TPU – a New Machine Learning ASIC from Google

The Google Coral Edge TPU is a new machine learning ASIC from Google. It performs fast TensorFlow Lite model inferencing with low power usage. We take a quick look at the Coral Dev Board, which includes the TPU chip and is available in online stores now.

Photo by Gravitylink

Overview

Google Coral is a general-purpose machine learning platform for edge applications. It can execute TensorFlow Lite models that have been trained in the cloud. It’s based on Mendel Linux, Google’s own flavor of Debian.

Object detection is a typical application for Google Coral. If you have a pre-trained machine learning model that detects objects in video streams, you can deploy your model to the Coral Edge TPU and use a local video camera as the input. The TPU will start detecting objects locally, without having to stream the video to the cloud.

The Coral Edge TPU chip is available in several packages. You probably want to buy the standalone Dev Board which includes the System-on-Module (SoM) and is easy to use for development. Alternatively you can buy a separate TPU accelerator device which connects to a PC through a USB, PCIe or M.2 connector. A System-on-Module is also available separately for integrating into custom hardware.

Comparing with AWS DeepLens

Google Coral is in many ways similar to AWS DeepLens. The main difference from a developer’s perspective is that DeepLens integrates to the AWS cloud. You manage your DeepLens devices and deploy your machine learning models using the AWS Console.

Google Coral, on the other hand, is a standalone edge device that doesn’t need a connection to the Google Cloud. In fact, setting up the development board requires performing some very low level operations like connecting a USB serial port and installing firmware.

DeepLens devices are physically consumer-grade plastic boxes and they include fixed video cameras. DeepLens is intended to be used by developers at an office, not integrated into custom products.

Google Coral’s System-on-Module, in contrast, packs the entire system in a 40×48 mm module. That includes all the processing units, networking features, connectors, 1GB of RAM and an 8GB eMMC where the operating system is installed. If you want build a custom hardware solution, you can build it around the Coral SoM.

The Coral Development Board

To get started with Google Coral, you should buy a Dev Board for about $150. The board is similar to Raspberry Pi devices. Once you have installed the board, it only requires a power source and a WiFi connection to operate.

Here are a couple of hints for installing the board for the first time.

  • Carefully read the instructions at https://coral.ai/docs/dev-board/get-started/. They take you through all the details of how to use the three different USB ports on the device and how to install the firmware.
  • You can use a Mac or a Linux computer but Windows won’t work. The firmware installation is based on a bash script and it also requires some special serial port drivers. They might work in Windows Subsystem for Linux, but using a Mac or a Linux PC is much easier.
  • If the USB port doesn’t seem to work, check that you aren’t using a charge-only USB cable. With a proper cable the virtual serial port device will appear on your computer.
  • The MDT tool (Mendel Development Tool) didn’t work for us. Instead, we had to use the serial port to login to the Linux system and setup SSH manually.
  • The default username/password of Mendel Linux is mendel/mendel. You can use those credentials to login through the serial port but the password doesn’t work through SSH. You’ll need to add your public key to .ssh/authorized_keys.
  • You can setup a WiFi network so you won’t need an ethernet cable. The getting started guide has instructions for this.

Once you have a working development board, you might want to take a look at Model Play (https://model.gravitylink.com/). It’s an Android application that lets you deploy machine learning models from the cloud to the Coral development board.

Model Play has a separate server installation guide at https://model.gravitylink.com/doc/guide.html. The server must be installed on the Coral development board before you can connect your smartphone to it. You also need to know the local IP address of the development board on your network.

Running Machine Learning Models

Let’s assume you now have a working Coral development board. You can connect to it from your computer with SSH and from your smartphone with the Model Play application.

The getting started guide has instructions for trying out the built-in demonstration application called edgetpu_demo. This application will work without a video camera. It uses a recorded video stream to perform real-time object recognition to detect cars in the video. You can see the output in your web browser.

You can also try out some TensorFlow Lite models through the SSH connection. If you have your own models, check out the documentation on how to make them compatible with the Coral Edge TPU at https://coral.ai/docs/edgetpu/models-intro/.

If you just want to play around with existing models, the Model Play application makes it very easy. Pick one of the provided models and tap the Free button to download it to your device. Then tap the Run button to execute it.

Connecting a Video Camera and Sensors

If you buy the Coral development board, make sure to also get the Video Camera and Sensor accessories for about $50 extra. They will let you apply your machine learning models to something more interesting than static video files.

Photo by Gravitylink

Alternatively you can also use a USB UVC compatible camera. Check the instructions at https://coral.ai/docs/dev-board/camera/#connect-a-usb-camera for details. You can use an HDMI monitor to view the output.

Future of the Edge

Google has partnered with Gravitylink for Coral product distribution. They also make the Model Play application that offers the Coral demos mentioned in this article. Gravitylink is trying to make machine learning fun and easy with simple user interfaces and a directory of pre-trained models.

Once you start developing more serious edge computing applications, you will need to think about issues like remote management and application deployment. At this point it is still unclear whether Google will integrate Coral and Mendel Linux to the Google Cloud Platform. This would involve device authentication, operating system updates and application deployments.

If you start building on Coral right now, you’ll most likely need a custom management solution. We at Nordcloud develop cloud-based management solutions for technologies like AWS Greengrass, AWS IoT and Docker. Feel free to contact us if you need a hand.

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    Webinar: Get to know the coolest of Google Cloud tools

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    Webinar: Get to know the coolest of Google Cloud tools

     

    Ready to unlock Google Cloud?

    In this webinar, you’ll hear

    1. Coolest Cases: Hand-picked case studies of the best tools in Google Cloud
    2. Are you Cloud-Ready: What it takes to supercharge your organization with Google Cloud
    3. Most Common Challenges: What look out for when moving to Google Cloud?
    4. Navigating the Obstacles: Nordcloud’s end-to-end solutions to secure your cloud journey and unleash the potential of Google Cloud

    Since 2011, Nordcloud, a Google Cloud Premier Partner, has completed more than 1000 successful cloud deployments. Nordcloud has worked with Europe’s largest enterprises, e.g. most of OMXN40, to harvest the full benefits of the public cloud, such as increased security, agility, scalability and reduced costs.

    Register here.

    Date:

    August 28, 2019

    Time

    1 PM – 2 PM CEST

     

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      Adopt Kubernetes with Experts Webinar

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      Webinar: Adopt Kubernetes with Experts

       

      Kubernetes makes it easy to scale, manage and deploy containerized applications. Nordcloud provides proven best practices for all aspects of cloud-based Kubernetes adoption with both managed services as well as virtual machine based deployments.

      The webinar will be held on Tuesday the 20th of August at 2 PM.

      In this webinar, you’ll learn how to 

      • Learn how to leverage CloudRun to run stateless container workloads
      • Build and deploy a microservices application onto GKE
      • Leverage full potential of services meshes, see how ISTIO can help with observability and communication policies

      The webinar is held by Dariusz Dwornikowski, Head of Engineering.

      Since 2011, Nordcloud, a Google Cloud Premier Partner, has completed more than 1000 successful cloud deployments. Nordcloud has worked with Europe’s largest enterprises, e.g. most of OMXN40, to harvest the full benefits of the public cloud, such as increased security, agility, scalability and reduced costs.

      Register here.

      Date:

      August 20

      Time

      14:00 – 15:00 CEST

       

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        HUS chooses Nordcloud and Google to Accelerate its Digital Competence

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        Nordcloud will harness its years of expertise in public cloud to benefit HUS in migrating to Google Cloud and its services.

        Google’s europe-north1 region, located in Hamina, Finland, is a determining factor for many Finnish organisations in choosing between hyperscale providers.

        The arrival of Google’s public cloud in Hamina was a central developmental step for digitalisation of public sector in Finland. Google Cloud’s Finnish region enables the use of cloud tools and added value while at the same time storing the data physically in Finland”, says Lars Oehlandt, VP Google Partnership of Nordcloud.  “As the Nordic public cloud pioneer with hundreds of projects under our belt, Nordcloud has refined a method we call Cloud Journey for taking business to cloud in a controlled and smart manner. Our cloud journey concept is an excellent fit for both public administration and health care organizations in order to secure full value of public cloud.”

        Google Cloud’s Finnish region enables the use of cloud tools and added value while at the same time storing the data physically in Finland.

        – Lars Oehlandt, VP Google Partnership, Nordcloud

        In addition to the advantageous region, HUS will obtain access to Google Cloud’s numerous features: advanced analytics, machine learning and container services, high-level information security, and world-class infrastructure.

        “Our cooperation with Nordcloud has deepened fast with the interest and demand generated by the Hamina region. Together we will serve Finnish companies and public administration organisations that are developing and modernising their operations with Google Cloud”, says Carita Mäkinen, Field Sales, Google Cloud Platform.

        Google announced in May that it will invest 600 million euros to expand its data center in Hamina. The new construction will add to Google’s existing data-center complex in Hamina on the south coast of Finland, taking the company’s total investment there to 1.4 billion euros. Google’s Hamina complex will be powered by renewable energy acquired from three new wind farms in the Nordic nation

        Earlier this month, Nordcloud was the first Nordic company to achieve the status of Authorized Google Cloud Platform Training Partner.

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          Next generation networking, food for thought?

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          A few of the large announcements included Anthos and Cloud run. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of presentations and announcements.

          This year there were two presentations that I felt may have flown under the radar, but would be a shame to miss out on.

           

          Istio Service mesh for VM’s

          Service meshes and overlay networking have been around for a while. Tools like Istio and such, enabled engineers to create overlay networks between containers. These networks allow for software-based networking between services and higher level features like:
          circuit-breaking, latency-aware load balancing, and service discovery.

          One of the drawbacks of these tools was the fact that most of the relied on sidecar containers. As a result, setting this up for non-container workloads like VM’s was pretty difficult. In this talk Chris Crall and Jianfei Hu show an easy way of integrating Istio with VM’s. This means that we can now integrate almost anything into our service mesh. This includes things like databases, legacy workloads or anything else that runs on a VM.

          Even though it might seem like a minor feature, this is pretty game-breaking. Imagine migrating a large application landscape critical of legacy workloads into containers: Istio can do weight-based routing. This means that we can set up many endpoints for the same service, all receiving only part of the traffic. By doing this for an application we’re trying to migrate, we can compare the performance of the old- to the new containerised version.

           

          Zero-trust networking and PII

          Another video that would be easy to miss, but definitely worth a watch is the one by Roy Bryant from Scotiabank. They’ve started shifting recently from a financial institution to ‘a tech company that also does banking’. As shown by them starting to push code open-source to GitHub.

          Being a bank, they deal with a lot of PII (Personally identifiable information). As a result, security is one of their main concerns.  In the video they mention that besides using ML to tokenise things like CC numbers, they leverage intent-based zero trust networking. This might sound complex but in reality it is quite elegant.

          Traditionally, access between services or computers is enforced through firewalls and network configurations. With the emergence of software-defined networks, and layer-7 routing we can start thinking about other ways.

          In the video, they mention that instead of configuring firewalls, they started expressing intent: “I want service A to be able to read 10 records per second from service B for the next 5 minutes”

          By versioning these intents and abstracting the logic behind it away into libraries, we are no longer maintaining complex sets of firewall rules. Access is now governed in a transparent maintainable manner, allowing for an intuitive way of approaching security.

           

          Conclusion

          A blogpost like this can only cover so much ground, and these are complex subjects. I recommend watching the videos mentioned here, and checking out the links in the reference below. I’d like to end this post with some food for thought:

          Currently in modern clouds, a large part of the security model relies on network security through firewalls and NACLs in addition to IAM.

          With the increasing usage of layer-7 overlay-networking I expect to see these two amalgamate into new multi-disciplinary security mechanisms.

          References

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            OnBoard Kubernetes Engine | Copenhagen

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            Join Nordcloud at OnBoard Kubernetes Engine – Copenhagen on May 23This free-to-attend, one-day event will provide you with industry best practices and tips to accelerate your ability to design solutions using Kubernetes!

            OnBoard Kubernetes Engine | Sorte Diamant, Det Kongelige Bibliotek

            OnBoard Kubernetes Engine – Copenhagen is a free full-day enablement and training event that will give you an understanding of containers and Docker, an overview of Kubernetes Engine technology, deploy to Kubernetes Engine and setting up continuous delivery.

            OnBoard Kubernetes Engine has been designed for IT Managers, Systems Engineers and Operations professionals, Developers, Solution Architects and modern business leaders who are exploring cloud solutions or are new to Google Cloud Platform. Leveraging the GCP Kubernetes Engine course, the event will provide you with the technical training you need to get started as well as access to tips and tricks, industry best-practice and questions and answers from the Google Cloud team.

            Check the event agenda and register here.

            Date

            May 23

            Location

            Sorte Diamant, Det Kongelige Bibliotek
            Søren Kierkegaards Plads 1
            Copenhagen, Denmark

             

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              OnBoard Kubernetes Engine | Stockholm

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              Join Nordcloud at OnBoard Kubernetes Engine – Stockholm on March 28This free-to-attend, one-day event will provide you with industry best practices and tips to accelerate your ability to design solutions using Kubernetes!

              OnBoard Kubernetes Engine | Scandic Continental

              OnBoard Kubernetes Engine – Stockholm is a free full-day enablement and training event that will give you understanding of containers and Docker, an overview of Kubernetes Engine technology, deploy to Kubernetes Engine and setting up continuous delivery.

              OnBoard Kubernetes Engine has been designed for IT Managers, Systems Engineers and Operations professionals, Developers, Solution Architects and modern business leaders who are exploring cloud solutions or are new to Google Cloud Platform. Leveraging the GCP Kubernetes Engine course, the event will provide you with the technical training you need to get started as well as access to tips and tricks, industry best-practice and questions and answers from the Google Cloud team.

              Check the event agenda and register here.

              Date

              March 28

              Location

              Scandic Continental
              Vasagatan 22
              Stockholm, Sweden

               

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                Google Cloud Platform Breakfast Seminar | Copenhagen

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                GCP Breakfast Seminar at our Copenhagen Office

                With proper governance in place, your business is able to shorten the time to market and start consuming next-generation cloud services, such as Machine Learning. A guest speaker from Google will be presenting the business value that can be achieved with GCP’s advanced Machine Learning tools.

                Since 2011, Nordcloud, a Google Cloud Premier Partner, has completed more than 1000 successful cloud deployments. Nordcloud has worked with Europe’s largest enterprises, e.g. most of OMXN40, to harvest the full benefits of the public cloud, such as increased security, agility, scalability and reduced costs.

                Check the event agenda and register here.

                Date

                March 28

                Location

                Nordcloud
                Strandvejen 70, 2. sal
                2900 Hellerup

                 

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                  Google Cloud Platform Webinar

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                  Google Cloud Platform Webinar

                  With proper governance in place, your business is able to shorten the time to market and start consuming next-generation cloud services, such as Machine Learning. A guest speaker from Google will be presenting the business value that can be achieved with GCP’s advanced Machine Learning tools.

                  Since 2011, Nordcloud, a Google Cloud Premier Partner, has completed more than 1000 successful cloud deployments. Nordcloud has worked with Europe’s largest enterprises, e.g. most of OMXN40, to harvest the full benefits of the public cloud, such as increased security, agility, scalability and reduced costs.

                  Register here.

                  Date:

                  March 27th

                  Time

                  09:00 – 10:00

                   

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                    Google Cloud Platform Breakfast Seminar | Stockholm

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                    GCP Breakfast Seminar at our Stockholm Office

                    With proper governance in place, your business is able to shorten the time to market and start consuming next-generation cloud services, such as Machine Learning. A guest speaker from Google will be presenting the business value that can be achieved with GCP’s advanced Machine Learning tools.

                    Since 2011, Nordcloud, a Google Cloud Premier Partner, has completed more than 1000 successful cloud deployments. Nordcloud has worked with Europe’s largest enterprises, e.g. most of OMXN40, to harvest the full benefits of the public cloud, such as increased security, agility, scalability and reduced costs.

                    Check the event agenda and register here.

                    Date

                    March 26

                    Location

                    Nordcloud
                    Gamla Brogatan 24
                    111 20 Stockholm

                     

                    Get in Touch.

                    Let’s discuss how we can help with your cloud journey. Our experts are standing by to talk about your migration, modernisation, development and skills challenges.