Federated Learning of Deep Networks using Model Averaging


Modern mobile devices have access to a wealth of data suitable for learning models, which in turn can greatly improve the user experience on the device. For example, language models can improve speech recognition and text entry, and image models can automatically select good photos. However, this rich data is often privacy sensitive, large in quantity, or both, which may preclude logging to the data-center and training there using conventional approaches. We advocate an alternative that leaves the training data distributed on the mobile devices, and learns a shared model by aggregating locally-computed updates. We term this decentralized approach Federated Learning. 

We present a practical method for the federated learning of deep networks that proves robust to the unbalanced and non-IID data distributions that naturally arise. This method allows high-quality models to be trained in relatively few rounds of communication, the principal constraint for federated learning. The key insight is that despite the non-convex loss functions we optimize, parameter averaging over updates from multiple clients produces surprisingly good results, for example decreasing the communication needed to train an LSTM language model by two orders of magnitude.

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