Revisiting the Activation Function for Federated Image ClassificationDownload PDF

Published: 21 Oct 2022, Last Modified: 05 May 2023FL-NeurIPS 2022 PosterReaders: Everyone
Keywords: Federated Learning, Activation Function
TL;DR: We empirically observe that off-the-shelf activation functions used in centralized setting get a totally different order of accuracy in federated learning.
Abstract: Federated learning (FL) has become one of the most popular distributed machine learning paradigms; these paradigms enable training on a large corpus of decentralized data that resides on devices. The recent evolution in FL research is mainly credited to the refinements in training procedures by developing the optimization methods. However, there has been little verification of other technical improvements, especially improvements to the activation functions (e.g., ReLU), that are widely used in the conventional centralized approach (i.e., standard data-centric optimization). In this work, we verify the effectiveness of activation functions in various federated settings.We empirically observe that off-the-shelf activation functions that are used in centralized settings exhibit a totally different performance trend than do federated settings. The experimental results demonstrate that HardTanh achieves the best accuracy when severe data heterogeneity or low participation rate is present. We provide a thorough analysis to investigate why the representation powers of activation functions are changed in a federated setting by measuring the similarities in terms of weight parameters and representations. Lastly, we deliver guidelines for selecting activation functions in both a cross-silo setting (i.e., a number of clients <= 20) and a cross-device setting (i.e., a number of clients >= 100). We believe that our work provides benchmark data and intriguing insights for designing models FL models.
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