Green Federated Learning


The rapid progress of AI is fueled by increasingly large and computationally intensive machine learning models and datasets. As a consequence, the amount of computing used in training state-of-the-art models is increasing exponentially (doubling every 10 months between 2015 and 2022), resulting in a large carbon footprint. Federated Learning (FL) — a collaborative machine learning technique for training a centralized model using data of decentralized entities — can also be resource-intensive and have a significant carbon footprint, particularly when deployed at scale. Unlike centralized AI that can reliably tap into renewables at strategically placed data centers, cross-device FL may leverage as many as hundreds of millions of globally distributed end-user devices with diverse energy sources. Green AI is a novel and important research area where carbon footprint is regarded as an evaluation criterion for AI, alongside accuracy, convergence speed, and other metrics. In this paper, we propose the concept of Green FL, which involves optimizing FL parameters and making design choices to minimize carbon emissions consistent with competitive performance and training time. The contributions of this work are two-fold. First, we adopt a data-driven approach to quantify the carbon emissions of FL by directly measuring real-world at-scale FL tasks running on millions of phones. Second, we present challenges, guidelines, and lessons from studying the trade-off between energy efficiency, performance, and time-to-train in a production FL system. Our findings offer valuable insights into how FL can reduce its carbon footprint, providing a foundation for future research in the area of Green AI.

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