In this viewpoint we propose the ML sensor: a logical framework for developing ML-enabled embedded systems which empowers end users through its privacy-by-design approach. By limiting the data interface, the ML sensor paradigm helps ensure that no user information can be extracted beyond the scope of the sensor’s functionality. Our proposed definition is as follows: An ML sensor is a self-contained, embedded system that utilizes machine learning to process sensor data on-device – logically decoupling data computation from the main application processor and limiting the data access of the wider system to high-level ML model outputs.
The sustained growth of carbon emissions and global waste elicits significant sustainability concerns for our environment's future. The growing Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to exacerbate this issue. However, an emerging area known as Tiny Machine Learning (TinyML) has the opportunity to help address these environmental challenges through sustainable computing practices. TinyML, the deployment of machine learning (ML) algorithms onto low-cost, low-power microcontroller systems, enables on-device sensor analytics that unlocks numerous always-on ML applications. This article discusses the potential of these TinyML applications to address critical sustainability challenges. Moreover, the footprint of this emerging technology is assessed through a complete life cycle analysis of TinyML systems. From this analysis, TinyML presents opportunities to offset its carbon emissions by enabling applications that reduce the emissions of other sectors. Nevertheless, when globally scaled, the carbon footprint of TinyML systems is not negligible, necessitating that designers factor in environmental impact when formulating new devices. Finally, research directions for enabling further opportunities for TinyML to contribute to a sustainable future are outlined.
Machine learning sensors represent a paradigm shift for the future of embedded machine learning applications. Current instantiations of embedded machine learning (ML) suffer from complex integration, lack of modularity, and privacy and security concerns from data movement. This article proposes a more data-centric paradigm for embedding sensor intelligence on edge devices to combat these challenges. Our vision for 'sensor 2.0' entails segregating sensor input data and ML processing from the wider system at the hardware level and providing a thin interface that mimics traditional sensors in functionality. This separation leads to a modular and easy-to-use ML sensor device. We discuss challenges presented by the standard approach of building ML processing into the software stack of the controlling microprocessor on an embedded system and how the modularity of ML sensors alleviates these problems. ML sensors increase privacy and accuracy while making it easier for system builders to integrate ML into their products as a simple component. We provide examples of prospective ML sensors and an illustrative datasheet as a demonstration and hope that this will build a dialogue to progress us towards sensor 2.0.