TensorFlow Lite 8-bit quantization specification

Specification summary

8-bit quantization approximates floating point values using the following formula.

$$real\_value = (int8\_value - zero\_point) \times scale$$

Per-axis (aka per-channel in Conv ops) or per-tensor weights are represented by int8 two’s complement values in the range [-127, 127] with zero-point equal to 0. Per-tensor activations/inputs are represented by int8 two’s complement values in the range [-128, 127], with a zero-point in range [-128, 127].

There are other exceptions for particular operations that are documented below.

Signed integer vs unsigned integer

TensorFlow Lite quantization will primarily prioritize tooling and kernels for int8 quantization for 8-bit. This is for the convenience of symmetric quantization being represented by zero-point equal to 0. Additionally many backends have additional optimizations for int8xint8 accumulation.

Per-axis vs per-tensor

Per-tensor quantization means that there will be one scale and/or zero-point per entire tensor. Per-axis quantization means that there will be one scale and/or zero_point per slice in the quantized_dimension. The quantized dimension specifies the dimension of the Tensor's shape that the scales and zero-points correspond to. For example, a tensor t, with dims=[4, 3, 2, 1] with quantization params: scale=[1.0, 2.0, 3.0], zero_point=[1, 2, 3], quantization_dimension=1 will be quantized across the second dimension of t:

t[:, 0, :, :] will have scale[0]=1.0, zero_point[0]=1
t[:, 1, :, :] will have scale[1]=2.0, zero_point[0]=2
t[:, 2, :, :] will have scale[2]=3.0, zero_point[0]=3

Often, the quantized_dimension is the output_channel of the weights of convolutions, but in theory it can be the dimension that corresponds to each dot-product in the kernel implementation, allowing more quantization granularity without performance implications. This has large improvements to accuracy.

TFLite has per-axis support for a growing number of operations. At the time of this document support exists for Conv2d and DepthwiseConv2d.

Symmetric vs asymmetric

Activations are asymmetric: they can have their zero-point anywhere within the signed int8 range [-128, 127]. Many activations are asymmetric in nature and a zero-point is an relatively inexpensive way to effectively get up to an extra binary bit of precision. Since activations are only multiplied by constant weights, the constant zero-point value can be optimized pretty heavily.

Weights are symmetric: forced to have zero-point equal to 0. Weight values are multiplied by dynamic input and activation values. This means that there is a unavoidable runtime cost of multiplying the zero-point of the weight with the activation value. By enforcing that zero-point is 0 we can avoid this cost.

Explanation of the math:

$A$ is a $m \times n$ matrix of quantized activations.
$B$ is a $n \times p$ matrix of quantized weights.
Consider multiplying the $j$th row of $A$, $a_j$ by the $k$th row of $B$, $b_k$, both of length $n$. The quantized integer values and zero-points values are $q_a$, $z_a$ and $q_b$, $q_b$ respectively.

$$a_j \cdot b_k = \sum_{i=0}^{n} a_{j}^{(i)} b_{k}^{(i)} = \sum_{i=0}^{n} (q_{a}^{(i)} - z_a) (q_{b}^{(i)} - z_b) = \sum_{i=0}^{n} q_{a}^{(i)} q_{b}^{(i)} - \sum_{i=0}^{n} q_{a}^{(i)} z_b - \sum_{i=0}^{n} q_{b}^{(i)} z_a + \sum_{i=0}^{n} z_a z_b$$

The \(\sum_{i=0}^{n} q_{a}^{(i)} q_{b}^{(i)}\) term is unavoidable since it’s performing the dot product of the input value and the weight value.

The \(\sum_{i=0}^{n} q_{b}^{(i)} z_a + \sum_{i=0}^{n} z_a z_b\) terms are made up of constants that remain the same per inference invocation, and thus can be pre-calculated.

The \(\sum_{i=0}^{n} q_{a}^{(i)} z_b\) term needs to be computed every inference since the activation changes every inference. By enforcing weights to be symmetric we can remove the cost of this term.

int8 quantized operator specifications

Below we describe the quantization requirements for our int8 tflite kernels:

ADD
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Input 1:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Output 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor

AVERAGE_POOL_2D
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Output 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  restriction: Input and outputs must all have same scale/zero_point

CONCATENATION
  Input ...:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Output 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  restriction: Input and outputs must all have same scale/zero_point

CONV_2D
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Input 1 (Weight):
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-127, 127]
    granularity: per-axis (dim = 0)
    restriction: zero_point = 0
  Input 2 (Bias):
    data_type  : int32
    range      : [int32_min, int32_max]
    granularity: per-axis (dim = 0)
    restriction: (scale, zero_point) = (input0_scale * input1_scale[...], 0)
  Output 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor

DEPTHWISE_CONV_2D
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Input 1 (Weight):
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-127, 127]
    granularity: per-axis (dim = 3)
    restriction: zero_point = 0
  Input 2 (Bias):
    data_type  : int32
    range      : [int32_min, int32_max]
    granularity: per-axis (dim = 3)
    restriction: (scale, zero_point) = (input0_scale * input1_scale[...], 0)
  Output 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor

FULLY_CONNECTED
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Input 1 (Weight):
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-127, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
    restriction: zero_point = 0
  Input 2 (Bias):
    data_type  : int32
    range      : [int32_min, int32_max]
    granularity: per-tensor
    restriction: (scale, zero_point) = (input0_scale * input1_scale[...], 0)
  Output 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor

L2_NORMALIZATION
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Output 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
    restriction: (scale, zero_point) = (1.0 / 128.0, 0)

LOGISTIC
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Output 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
    restriction: (scale, zero_point) = (1.0 / 256.0, -128)

MAX_POOL_2D
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Output 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  restriction: Input and outputs must all have same scale/zero_point

MUL
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Output 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor

RESHAPE
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Output 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  restriction: Input and outputs must all have same scale/zero_point

RESIZE_BILINEAR
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Output 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  restriction: Input and outputs must all have same scale/zero_point

SOFTMAX
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Output 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
    restriction: (scale, zero_point) = (1.0 / 256.0, -128)

SPACE_TO_DEPTH
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Output 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  restriction: Input and outputs must all have same scale/zero_point

TANH
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Output 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
    restriction: (scale, zero_point) = (1.0 / 128.0, 0)

PAD
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Output 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  restriction: Input and outputs must all have same scale/zero_point

GATHER
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Output 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  restriction: Input and outputs must all have same scale/zero_point

BATCH_TO_SPACE_ND
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Output 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  restriction: Input and outputs must all have same scale/zero_point

SPACE_TO_BATCH_ND
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Output 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  restriction: Input and outputs must all have same scale/zero_point

TRANSPOSE
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Output 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  restriction: Input and outputs must all have same scale/zero_point

MEAN
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Output 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor

SUB
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Input 1:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Output 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor

SQUEEZE
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Output 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  restriction: Input and outputs must all have same scale/zero_point

LOG_SOFTMAX
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Output 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
    restriction: (scale, zero_point) = (16.0 / 256.0, 127)

MAXIMUM
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Output 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  restriction: Input and outputs must all have same scale/zero_point

ARG_MAX
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor

MINIMUM
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Output 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  restriction: Input and outputs must all have same scale/zero_point

LESS
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Input 1:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor

PADV2
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Output 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  restriction: Input and outputs must all have same scale/zero_point

GREATER
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Input 1:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor

GREATER_EQUAL
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Input 1:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor

LESS_EQUAL
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Input 1:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor

SLICE
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Output 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  restriction: Input and outputs must all have same scale/zero_point

EQUAL
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Input 1:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor

NOT_EQUAL
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Input 1:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor

SHAPE
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor

QUANTIZE (Requantization)
  Input 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor
  Output 0:
    data_type  : int8
    range      : [-128, 127]
    granularity: per-tensor