Presented By
O’Reilly + Cloudera
Make Data Work
March 25-28, 2019
San Francisco, CA

Federated learning

Mike Lee Williams (Cloudera Fast Forward Labs)
5:10pm5:50pm Wednesday, March 27, 2019
Secondary topics:  Security and Privacy
Average rating: ****.
(4.00, 1 rating)

Who is this presentation for?

  • Product managers, data scientists, and those working in the consumer technology, telco, and IoT areas



Prerequisite knowledge

  • A basic understanding of machine learning

What you'll learn

  • Understand what makes a problem federated (general principles and specific examples)
  • Explore algorithmic challenges in this setting and their solutions
  • Learn how to build a federated ML product


Federated learning is distributed machine learning across edge devices with a number of twists that make it both challenging and broadly applicable. Training happens on the same devices that generate the data. Those edge users are often concerned about privacy and are thus unwilling to share their training data. And even when they’re willing to share the data, communication is unreliable and slow, so it may not be practical. Examples include predictive text on cell phones, a person’s engagement with their own photos, and machine learning in the browser applied to corporate text archives such as a team Slack or Google Drive, and ML on low-powered field devices in energy, agriculture, and logistics. The principles of data minimization established by the GDPR and the prevalence of smart sensors makes these use cases more common and the advantages of federated learning more compelling.

Mike Lee Williams discusses the algorithmic and production techniques of federated learning and the privacy-preserving, fault-tolerant product opportunities they offer. He then leads a demo of a working prototype example of federated learning applied to a predictive maintenance problem, in which customers aren’t willing to share the details of how their components failed with the manufacturer but want the manufacturer to provide them with a strategy to maintain the part. The solution satisfies the customer’s privacy concerns while providing them with a model that leads to fewer costly failures and less maintenance downtime.

Photo of Mike Lee Williams

Mike Lee Williams

Cloudera Fast Forward Labs

Mike Lee Williams is a research engineer at Cloudera Fast Forward Labs, where he builds prototypes that bring the latest ideas in machine learning and AI to life and helps Cloudera’s customers understand how to make use of these new technologies. Mike holds a PhD in astrophysics from Oxford.