ML on the Edge with Tensorflow Lite

Deploying a complex ML model on an edge device can be interesting to reduce latency and improve user interaction (e.g. in the presence of network issues or when user is offline). It also addresses privacy concerns as users data will be processed to deliver an intelligent behavior locally without need them to be sent/stored to a remote server.

Tensorflow Lite is a framework for deploying tensorflow machine learning models into low resources devices (mobile and IoT). Tensorflow Lite has two main components:

To learn more about Tensorflow Lite and how to use it on mobile devices check Udacity excellent course.

The rest of this tutorial will explore how to convert tensorflow models and test the generated model using Tensorflow Lite interpreter. The full notebook with more complete examples can be found here.

Converting models into Tensorflow Lite

Say we have created a model, trained properly and we are happy with the accuracy (or anyother metric)

# Create a model a train it
model = tf.keras.models.Sequential([/* model layers */])
model.compile(optimizer_name), loss=loss_function_name), y, epochs=...)

Now we want to use this model on a mobile device using Tensorflow Lite. We can choose any of the multiple choices for converting models, programmatically or using CLI (e.g. in a CI/CD pipeline) as follows:

Converting SavedModel models

Tensorflow SavedModel is a storage format that helps saving the entire TensorFlow model (more generally any program) including weights for each layer and operations performed by the model. It is a perfect format for exchanging models, i.e. there is no need for sharing the original code in order to run the model. Here is an example of how a SaveModel can be generated:

# Save the model in the SavedModel format, output_dir)

Now once we have model in the SavedModel format we can convert it into a Tensorflow Lite model as follows:

converter = tf.lite.TFLiteConverter.from_saved_model(output_dir)
tflite_model = converter.convert()

Converting Keras models

Suppose we have same Keras model as the one create in the previous section, we can convert it into a Tensorflow Lite model without having to save it as follows:

converter = tf.lite.TFLiteConverter.from_keras_model(model)
tflite_model = converter.convert()

Converting concrete functions

A concrete function is a format in which the model is saved as a graph of operations. Technically, a concrete function is a function decorated with @tf.function. For example, we can wrap the Keras model and generate concrete function representation as follows:

def concrete_model(x):
  return model(x)
input_shape = model.inputs[0].shape
input_dtype = model.inputs[0].dtype
concrete_func = concrete_model.get_concrete_function(tf.TensorSpec(input_shape, input_dtype))

Once we have the concrete function, we can convert it into a Tensorflow Lite format as follows:

converter = tf.lite.TFLiteConverter.from_concrete_functions([concrete_func])
tflite_model = converter.convert()

Converting from the CLI

Using the tflite_convert command which is part of tensorflow installation, we can convert models as follows:

  1. Converting a SavedModel
    $ tflite_convert --output-file=model.tflite --saved-model-dir=./output
  2. Converting a Keras model
    $ tflite_convert --output-file=model.tflite --keras_model_file=model.h5

Next optimizing the converted models