The first On-Device Vector Database: ObjectBox 4.0

The first On-Device Vector Database: ObjectBox 4.0

The new on-device vector database enables advanced AI applications on small restricted devices like mobile phones, Raspberry Pis, medical equipment, IoT gadgets and all the smart things around you. It is the missing piece to a fully local AI stack and the key technology to enable AI language models to interact with user specific data like text and images without an Internet connection and cloud services.

An AI Technology Enabler

Recent AI language models (LLMs) demonstrated impressive capabilities while being small enough to run on e.g. mobile phones. Recent examples include Gemma, Phi3 and OpenELM. The next logical step from here is to use these LLMs for advanced AI applications that go beyond a mere chat. A new generation of apps is currently evolving. These apps create “flows” with user specific data and multiple queries to the LLM to perform complex tasks. This is also known as RAG (retrieval augmented generation), which, in its simplest form, allows one to chat with your documents. And now, for the very first time, this will be possible to do locally on restricted devices using a fully fledged embedded database.

What is special about ObjectBox Vector Search?

We know restricted devices. Where others see limitations, we see the potential and we have repeatedly demonstrated creating superefficient software for these. And thus maximizing speed, minimizing resource use, saving battery life and CO2. With this knowledge, we approached vector search in a unique way.

Efficient memory management is the key. The challenge with vector data is that on the one hand, it consumes a lot of memory – while on the other hand, relevant vectors must be present in memory to compute distances between vectors efficiently. For this, we introduced a special multi-layered caching that gives the best performance for the full range of devices; from memory-constrained small devices to large machines that can keep millions of vectors in memory. This worked out so well that we saw ObjectBox outperform several vector databases built for servers (open source benchmarks coming soon). This is no small feat given that ObjectBox still holds up full ACID properties, e.g. caching must be transaction-aware.

Also, keep in mind that ObjectBox is a fully capable database that allows you to store complex data objects along with vectors. From an ObjectBox data model point of view, a vector is “just” another property type. This allows you to store all your data (vectors along with objects) in a single database. This “one database” approach also includes queries. You can already combine vector search with other conditions. Note that some limitations still apply with this initial release. Full hybrid search is close to being finished and will be part of one of the next releases.

In short, the following features make ObjectBox a unique vector database:

  • Embedded Database that runs inside your application without latency
  • Vector search based is state-of-the-art HNSW algorithm that scales very well with growing data volume
  • HNSW is tightly integrated within our internal database. Vector Search doesn’t just run “on top of database persistence”.
  • With this deep integration we do not need to keep all vectors in memory.
  • Multi-layered caching: if a vector is not in-memory, ObjectBox fetches it from disk.
  • Not just a vector database: you can store any data in ObjectBox, not just vectors. You won’t need a second database.
  • Low minimum hardware requirements: e.g. an old Raspberry Pi comfortably runs ObjectBox smoothly.
  • Low memory footprint: ObjectBox itself just takes a few MB of memory. The entire binary is only about 3 MB (compressed around 1 MB).
  • Scales with hardware: efficient resource usage is also an advantage when running on more capable devices like the latest phones, desktops and servers.
  • ObjectBox additionally offers commercial editions, e.g. a Server Cluster mode, GraphQL, and of course, ObjectBox Sync, our data synchronization solution.

Why is this relevant? AI anywhere & anyplace

With history repeating itself, we think AI is in a “mainframe era” today. Just like clunky computers from decades before, AI is restricted to big and very expensive machines running far away from the user. In the future, AI will become decentralized, shifting to the user and their local devices. To support this shift, we created the ObjectBox vector database. Our vision is a future where AI can assist everyone, anytime, and anywhere, with efficiency, privacy, and sustainability at its core.

What do we launch today?

Today, we are releasing ObjectBox 4.0 with Vector Search for a variety of languages:

*) We acknowledge Python’s popularity within the AI community and thus have invested significantly in our Python binding over the last months to make it part of this initial release. Since we still want to smooth out some rough edges with Python, we decided to label Python an alpha release. Expect Python to quickly catch up and match the comfort of our more established language bindings soon (e.g. automatic ID and model handling).

Let’s get you started right away? Check our Vector Search documentation to see how to use it!

One more thing: ObjectBox Open Source Database (OSS)

We are also very happy to announce that we will fully open source the core of ObjectBox. As a company we follow the open core model. Since we still have some cleaning up to do, this will happen in one of the next releases, likely 4.1.

“Release week”

With today’s initial releases, we are far from done yet. Starting next Tuesday, you can  expect additional announcements from us. Follow us to get the news as soon as it is released.

What’s next?

This is our very first version of a “vector database”. And while we are very happy with this release, there are still so many things to do! For example, we will optimize vector search by adding vector quantization and integrate it more tightly with our data synchronization. We are also focusing on expanding our solution’s reach through strategic partnerships. If you think you are a good fit, let us know. And as always, we are very eager to get some feedback from you! Take care.