TensorFlow Lite and TensorFlow operator compatibility

TensorFlow Lite supports a number of TensorFlow operations used in common inference models. As they are processed by the TensorFlow Lite Optimizing Converter, those operations may be elided or fused, before the supported operations are mapped to their TensorFlow Lite counterparts.

Since the TensorFlow Lite builtin operator library only supports a limited number of TensorFlow operators, not every model is convertible. Even for supported operations, very specific usage patterns are sometimes expected, for performance reasons. We expect to expand the set of supported operations in future TensorFlow Lite releases.

The best way to understand how to build a TensorFlow model that can be used with TensorFlow Lite is to carefully consider how operations are converted and optimized, along with the limitations imposed by this process.

Supported types

Most TensorFlow Lite operations target both floating-point (float32) and quantized (uint8, int8) inference, but many ops do not yet for other types like tf.float16 and strings.

Apart from using different version of the operations, the other difference between floating-point and quantized models is the way they are converted. Quantized conversion requires dynamic range information for tensors. This requires "fake-quantization" during model training, getting range information via a calibration data set, or doing "on-the-fly" range estimation. See quantization.

Supported operations and restrictions

TensorFlow Lite supports a subset of TensorFlow operations with some limitations. For full list of operations and limitations see TF Lite Ops page.

Straight-forward conversions, constant-folding and fusing

A number of TensorFlow operations can be processed by TensorFlow Lite even though they have no direct equivalent. This is the case for operations that can be simply removed from the graph (tf.identity), replaced by tensors (tf.placeholder), or fused into more complex operations (tf.nn.bias_add). Even some supported operations may sometimes be removed through one of these processes.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of TensorFlow operations that are usually removed from the graph:

Experimental Operations

The following TensorFlow Lite operations are present, but not ready for custom models:

  • CALL
  • SVDF