Fed-CO$_{2}$: Cooperation of Online and Offline Models for Severe Data Heterogeneity in Federated Learning

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

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Zhongyi Cai, Ye Shi, Wei Huang, Jingya Wang


Federated Learning (FL) has emerged as a promising distributed learning paradigm that enables multiple clients to learn a global model collaboratively without sharing their private data. However, the effectiveness of FL is highly dependent on the quality of the data that is being used for training. In particular, data heterogeneity issues, such as label distribution skew and feature skew, can significantly impact the performance of FL. Previous studies in FL have primarily focused on addressing label distribution skew data heterogeneity, while only a few recent works have made initial progress in tackling feature skew issues. Notably, these two forms of data heterogeneity have been studied separately and have not been well explored within a unified FL framework. To address this gap, we propose Fed-CO$_2$, a universal FL framework that handles both label distribution skew and feature skew within a Cooperation mechanism between the Online and Offline models. Specifically, the online model learns general knowledge that is shared among all clients, while the offline model is trained locally to learn the specialized knowledge of each individual client. To further enhance model cooperation in the presence of feature shifts, we design an intra-client knowledge transfer mechanism that reinforces mutual learning between the online and offline models, and an inter-client knowledge transfer mechanism to increase the models’ domain generalization ability. Extensive experiments show that our Fed-CO$_2$ outperforms a wide range of existing personalized federated learning algorithms in terms of handling label distribution skew and feature skew, both individually and collectively. The empirical results are supported by our convergence analyses in a simplified setting.