Transfer Learning in Machine Learning: Techniques for Reusing Pre-Trained model

Transfer Learning in Machine Learning: Techniques for Reusing Pre-Trained model

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Atul
Atul Harsha
Senior Manager Content
Updated on Dec 28, 2022 12:28 IST

In this blog, we will introduce the concept of transfer learning in machine learning and discuss its applications and benefits. Transfer learning involves using knowledge from a previously trained model to improve the performance of a new model on a different, related task. This approach can greatly reduce the amount of labeled data and computational resources needed to train a model, making it a powerful tool for solving real-world problems. We will explore various techniques for implementing transfer learning and discuss the factors that can impact its success.

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Transfer learning is a way to use a machine learning model that has already been trained to do one task and apply that knowledge to a new, related task. This can save time and improve the model’s performance on the new task, especially if the new task has a smaller dataset. Transfer learning allows a model to “transfer” knowledge and skills from one task to another rather than starting completely from scratch.

Table of Content

What is Transfer Learning?

Transfer learning is a machine learning technique that allows a model to reuse knowledge and skills learned from one task and apply them to a different but related task. This is done by using a pre-trained model as the starting point for a new model rather than training a model from scratch.

The pre-trained model, also known as the source or base model, is typically trained on a large dataset for a specific task. This task is known as the source task. The goal of transfer learning is to use the knowledge and skills learned by the source model on the source task and apply them to a new task, known as the target task.

Here is an example of how transfer learning might be used in a scenario:

Imagine that a retail company wants to build a machine learning model to predict which products will be popular in the future based on past sales data. The company has a large dataset of sales data from the past few years, but it needs to figure out how to use this data to make accurate predictions.

In this case, the company could use transfer learning to build a new model that leverages the knowledge and skills learned by a pre-trained model that has already been trained on a large dataset of sales data. The pre-trained model, known as the base model or source model, could be a model trained to predict sales trends for various products.

To use transfer learning, the company would start by selecting the base model and fine-tuning it to predict sales trends for its specific products. This could involve adjusting the base model’s architecture or adding additional layers of neurons. The company would then use its sales data to train the fine-tuned base model on the target task.

By using transfer learning, the company can leverage the knowledge and skills learned by the base model on a large dataset of sales data, which can improve the new model’s performance on the target task of predicting sales trends for its specific products. This can be especially useful when the target task has a smaller dataset, as the model can benefit from the knowledge and experience gained from the larger dataset of the source task.

Importance of Transfer Learning in Machine Learning

Transfer learning is an important technique in machine learning because it allows us to build more accurate and efficient models in a number of ways. Some key benefits of transfer learning include

  • Reduced training time and cost: Transfer learning can significantly reduce the time and resources required to train a new model. For example, suppose a model has already been trained to recognize images of animals. In that case, it may recognize images of plants with only a small amount of additional training. This can save significant time and computational resources that would otherwise be required to train a model from scratch.
  • Improved performance on smaller datasets: Transfer learning can be beneficial when the new task has a small dataset, as the model can leverage the knowledge it has already gained from the larger dataset of the source task. This can improve the model’s performance on the new task and make it more likely to generalize well to new data.
  • Leveraging knowledge from related tasks: Transfer learning allows us to take advantage of the knowledge and experience gained from previous tasks and apply it to a new task. This can be beneficial when the new task is related to the source task, as the model may be able to transfer more relevant knowledge. For example, a model trained to recognize images of dogs may be able to transfer some of its knowledge to a new task of recognizing images of cats, as both tasks involve recognizing images of animals.

Transfer learning is an important technique in machine learning that can significantly improve the efficiency and performance of machine learning models, especially when working with small or related datasets.

Types of Transfer Learning

  • Feature-based transfer learning: In feature-based transfer learning, the goal is to transfer the features learned by the source model to the target model. This involves using the weights and biases learned by the source model as the starting point for the target model and training the target model using a small dataset specific to the target task. Feature-based transfer learning is useful when the source and target tasks are similar and share many of the same features.

For example, A model trained to classify emails as spam or not spam could be used to classify social media posts as spam or not spam by transferring the features learned by the model to a new model trained on a small dataset of social media posts.

  • Fine-tuning transfer learning: In fine-tuning transfer learning, the goal is to fine-tune the pre-trained model for the target task. This involves using the pre-trained model as the starting point for the new model and adjusting the model’s architecture or hyperparameters to suit the target task’s needs better. The model is then trained on the target task using a small dataset specific to the target task. Fine-tuning transfer learning is useful when the source and target tasks are related but have some differences that need to be accounted for.

For example, A model trained to classify news articles by topic could be fine-tuned for a new task of classifying social media posts by adjusting the model’s architecture or hyperparameters and training it on a small dataset of social media posts.

  • Multi-task transfer learning: In multi-task transfer learning, the goal is to transfer knowledge between multiple tasks. This involves training a single model on multiple task simultaneously and using the knowledge learned from one task to improve the model’s performance on the other tasks. Multi-task transfer learning is useful when multiple related tasks can benefit from sharing knowledge.

For example, Same news articles topic classification model could classify social media posts by topic and classify comments as spam or not spam by training the model on a dataset of news articles, emails, social media posts, and comments simultaneously.

How to use Transfer Learning?

  1. Develop Model Approach: In the Develop Model Approach, you develop a machine learning model from scratch for the target task using your own dataset. Once you have developed the model, you can use transfer learning to fine-tune it and improve its performance. This involves using a pre-trained model as the starting point for the new model and adjusting the model’s architecture or hyperparameters to suit the target task’s needs better.
  2. Pre-trained Model Approach: In the Pre-trained Model Approach, you start by selecting a pre-trained model that has already been trained on a similar task to the target task. You can then fine-tune the pre-trained model for the target task by adjusting the model’s architecture or hyperparameters and using it as the starting point for a new model. Finally, you can train the fine-tuned model on the target task using your own dataset.

Develop Model Approach

  • Select the source task: The first step in the Develop Model Approach is to identify the source task for which the pre-trained model was originally trained. It is important to choose a source task related to the target task, as this will increase the likelihood that the pre-trained model will be able to transfer relevant knowledge to the new task.
  • Develop the source model: Once you have identified the source task, you will need to develop a machine-learning model to perform the task. This may involve collecting and preparing a dataset, selecting an appropriate machine learning algorithm, and training the model using the dataset.
  • Reuse the model: Once you have developed the source model, you can use it as the starting point for a new model and reuse the knowledge and skills it has learned. This can be especially useful when the target task has a small dataset, as the model can benefit from the knowledge and experience gained from the larger dataset of the source task.
  • Tune the model: Finally, fine-tune the pre-trained model for the target task. This may involve adjusting the model’s architecture or hyperparameters as per the requirements. The changes you make will depend on the specific requirements of the target task and the relationship between the source and target tasks.

Pre-Trained Model Approach

  • Select the source model: The first step in the Pre-trained Model Approach is to select a pre-trained model that has already been trained on a similar task to the target task. Many pre-trained models are available for various tasks, such as image classification, natural language processing, and object detection. It is important to choose a pre-trained model that is appropriate for the target task and has been trained on a dataset that is similar to the one you will be using for the target task.
  • Reuse the model: Once you have selected the pre-trained model, you can use it as the starting point for a new model and reuse the knowledge and skills it has learned. This can be especially useful when the target task has a small dataset, as the model can benefit from the knowledge and experience gained from the larger dataset of the source task.
  • Tune the model: Finally, you will need to fine-tune the pre-trained model for the target task by adjusting the model’s architecture or hyperparameters as per the need. 

Both the Develop Model Approach and Pre-trained Model Approach can be effective ways to use transfer learning, depending on the target task’s specific requirements and the data availability. It is important to choose the approach that best fits the needs of your project and to carefully fine-tune the model for the target task in order to achieve the best performance.

Steps in Transfer Learning

To use transfer learning, you will need to follow these steps:

  • Identify the source task and target task: The first step in using transfer learning is to identify the source task and the target task. The source task is the task for which the pre-trained the model was originally trained, and the target task is the new task for which you want to use the pre-trained model. It is important to choose a source task related to the target task, as this will increase the likelihood that the pre-trained model will be able to transfer relevant knowledge to the new task.
  • Select a pre-trained model: The next step is to select a pre-trained model, also known as a base model or source model, that has already been trained on the source task. Many pre-trained models are available for various tasks, such as image classification, natural language processing, and object detection. It is important to choose a pre-trained model that is appropriate for the target task and has been trained on a dataset similar to the one you will be using for the target task.
  • Fine-tune the pre-trained model: Once you have selected a pre-trained model, you will need to fine-tune it for the target task. This may involve adjusting the model’s architecture, adding or removing layers, or adjusting the model’s hyperparameters. The changes you make will depend on the specific requirements of the target task and the relationship between the source and target tasks.
  • Train the fine-tuned model on the target task: Once you have fine-tuned the pre-trained model, you can use it as the starting point for a new model and train it on the target task using your own dataset. This may involve adding additional layers or fine-tuning the model’s hyperparameters further to optimize its performance on the target task.
  • Evaluate the model’s performance: Once you have trained the model on the target task, you should evaluate its performance to see how well it can generalize to new data. This can involve testing the model on a separate test dataset or using other evaluation metrics, such as accuracy, precision, and recall.

Transfer learning involves identifying the source and target tasks, selecting a pre-trained model, fine-tuning the pre-trained model for the target task, and training and evaluating the fine-tuned model on the target task. By following these steps, you can use transfer learning to build more accurate and efficient machine learning models.

Examples of Pre-trained Models used in Transfer Learning

There are many pre-trained models available for use in transfer learning, depending on the specific task and dataset. Here are some examples of pre-trained models that are commonly used in transfer learning:

  1. Image classification:
    • VGG: A pre-trained model for image classification that is widely used as a starting point for many image classification tasks.
    • ResNet: A pre-trained model for image classification that is known for its ability to achieve good performance with relatively few layers.
    • Inception: A pre-trained model for image classification that is known for its efficiency and ability to achieve good performance on a variety of tasks.
  1. Object detection:
    • YOLO: A pre-trained model for object detection that is known for its speed and ability to detect a wide range of objects.
    • Faster R-CNN: A pre-trained model for object detection that is known for its accuracy and ability to detect objects in complex images.
  1. Natural language processing:
    • BERT: A pre-trained model for natural language processing tasks such as language modeling, text classification, and machine translation.
    • GPT: A pre-trained model for natural language processing tasks such as language modeling and machine translation.
  1. Speech recognition:
    • DeepSpeech: A pre-trained model for speech recognition tasks such as transcribing spoken words into text.
    • Kaldi: A pre-trained model for speech recognition tasks that is known for its accuracy and ability to handle large datasets.

Overall, there are many pre-trained models available for use in transfer learning, and the appropriate model will depend on the specific task and dataset. By selecting a pre-trained model that is appropriate for the task and has been trained on a dataset similar to the one you will be using, you can use transfer learning to improve the performance of your machine learning models.

When to Use Transfer Learning?

Transfer learning can be useful in various situations, including when you have a small dataset, want to improve performance on a related task, or want to save time and resources. It is important to carefully consider the specific needs of your project and determine whether transfer learning is a suitable approach.

Transfer learning can be useful in the following ways: 

  • You have a small dataset: Transfer learning can be beneficial when the target task has a small dataset, as the model can leverage the knowledge it has already gained from the larger dataset of the source task. This can improve the model’s performance on the new task and make it more likely to generalize well to new data.
  • You want to improve performance on a related task: Transfer learning can be useful when the target task is related to the source task, as the model may be able to transfer more relevant knowledge. For example, a model trained to recognize images of dogs may be able to transfer some of its knowledge to a new task of recognizing images of cats, as both tasks involve recognizing images of animals.
  • You want to save time and resources: Transfer learning can significantly reduce the time and resources required to train a new model. For example, suppose a model has already been trained to recognize images of animals. In that case, it may recognize images of plants with only a small amount of additional training. This can save significant time and computational resources that would otherwise be required to train a model from scratch.

Challenges of Transfer Learning

There are several challenges to consider when using transfer learning, including

  • Selecting the appropriate source task: It is important to select a source task that is related to the target task and has been trained on a dataset that is similar to the one you will be using for the target task. Suppose the source and target tasks are unrelated or the source dataset is significantly different from the target dataset. In that case, the pre-trained model may not be able to transfer relevant knowledge to the new task.
  • Fine-tuning the pre-trained model: Fine-tuning the pre-trained model for the target task can be time-consuming and requires a good understanding of the specific requirements of the target task and the relationship between the source and target tasks. It may also be necessary to adjust the model’s architecture or hyperparameters to suit better the needs of the target task, which can be challenging.
  • Dealing with overfitting: When using transfer learning, it is important to be mindful of the risk of overfitting, which occurs when the model becomes too closely fit to the training data and cannot generalize to new data. This can be particularly challenging when using a small dataset for the target task, as the model may become too closely fit to the limited data.
  • Balancing transfer and adaptation: It is important to strike a balance between transferring knowledge from the pre-trained model and adapting the model to the specific requirements of the target task. If the model is too closely tied to the pre-trained model, it may not adapt to the target task’s specific needs. On the other hand, if the model is too heavily adapted to the target task, it may not be able to benefit from the knowledge and experience gained by the pre-trained model.
About the Author
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Atul Harsha
Senior Manager Content

Experienced AI and Machine Learning content creator with a passion for using data to solve real-world challenges. I specialize in Python, SQL, NLP, and Data Visualization. My goal is to make data science engaging an... Read Full Bio