On Heterogeneously Distributed Data, Sparsity Matters

29 Sep 2021  ·  Tiansheng Huang, Shiwei Liu, Li Shen, Fengxiang He, Weiwei Lin, DaCheng Tao ·

Federated learning (FL) is particularly vulnerable to heterogeneously distributed data, since a common global model in FL may not adapt to the heterogeneous data distribution of each user. To counter this issue, personalized FL (PFL) was proposed to produce dedicated local models for each individual user. However, PFL is far from its maturity, because existing PFL solutions either demonstrate unsatisfactory generalization towards different model architectures or cost enormous extra computation and memory. In this work, we propose federated learning with personalized sparse mask (FedSpa), a novel personalized federated learning scheme that employs personalized sparse masks to customize sparse local models on the edge. Instead of training fully dense PFL models, FedSpa only maintains a fixed number of active parameters throughout training (aka sparse-to-sparse training), which enables users' models to achieve personalization with consistently cheap communication, computation, and memory cost. We theoretically show that with the rise of data heterogeneity, setting a higher sparsity of FedSpa may potentially result in a smaller error bound on its personalized models, which also coincides with our empirical observations. Comprehensive experiments demonstrate that FedSpa significantly saves communication and computation costs, while simultaneously achieves higher model accuracy and faster convergence speed against several state-of-the-art PFL methods.

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