Heterogeneity for the Win: One-Shot Federated Clustering

Don Kurian Dennis · Tian Li · Virginia Smith

[ Abstract ] [ Livestream: Visit Optimization and Algorithms 1 ] [ Paper ]
Tue 20 Jul 5:40 p.m. — 5:45 p.m. PDT

In this work, we explore the unique challenges---and opportunities---of unsupervised federated learning (FL). We develop and analyze a one-shot federated clustering scheme, kfed, based on the widely-used Lloyd's method for $k$-means clustering. In contrast to many supervised problems, we show that the issue of statistical heterogeneity in federated networks can in fact benefit our analysis. We analyse kfed under a center separation assumption and compare it to the best known requirements of its centralized counterpart. Our analysis shows that in heterogeneous regimes where the number of clusters per device $(k')$ is smaller than the total number of clusters over the network $k$, $(k'\le \sqrt{k})$, we can use heterogeneity to our advantage---significantly weakening the cluster separation requirements for kfed. From a practical viewpoint, kfed also has many desirable properties: it requires only round of communication, can run asynchronously, and can handle partial participation or node/network failures. We motivate our analysis with experiments on common FL benchmarks, and highlight the practical utility of one-shot clustering through use-cases in personalized FL and device sampling.

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