Federated-EM with heterogeneity mitigation and variance reduction

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 (NeurIPS 2021)

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Aymeric Dieuleveut, Gersende Fort, Eric Moulines, Geneviève Robin


The Expectation Maximization (EM) algorithm is the default algorithm for inference in latent variable models. As in any other field of machine learning, applications of latent variable models to very large datasets make the use of advanced parallel and distributed architecture mandatory. This paper introduces FedEM, which is the first extension of the EM algorithm to the federated learning context. FedEM is a new communication efficient method, which handles partial participation of local devices, and is robust to heterogeneous distribution of the datasets. To alleviate the communication bottleneck, FedEM compresses appropriately defined complete data sufficient statistics. We also develop and analyze an extension of FedEM to further incorporate a variance reduction scheme. In all cases, we derive finite-time complexity bounds for smooth non-convex problems. Numerical results are presented to support our theoretical findings, as well as an application to federated missing values imputation for biodiversity monitoring.