Human activity recognition (HAR) based on mobile sensors plays an important role in ubiquitous computing. However, the rise of data regulatory constraints precludes collecting private and labeled signal data from personal devices at scale. Thanks to the growth of computational power on mobile devices, federated learning has emerged as a decentralized alternative solution to model training, which iteratively aggregates locally updated models into a shared global model, therefore being able to leverage decentralized, private data without central collection. However, the effectiveness of federated learning for HAR is affected by the fact that each user has different activity types and even a different signal distribution for the same activity type. Furthermore, it is uncertain if a single global model trained can generalize well to individual users or new users with heterogeneous data. In this paper, we propose Meta-HAR, a federated representation learning framework, in which a signal embedding network is meta-learned in a federated manner, while the learned signal representations are further fed into a personalized classification network at each user for activity prediction. In order to boost the representation ability of the embedding network, we treat the HAR problem at each user as a different task and train the shared embedding network through a Model-Agnostic Meta-learning framework, such that the embedding network can generalize to any individual user. Personalization is further achieved on top of the robustly learned representations in an adaptation procedure. We conducted extensive experiments based on two publicly available HAR datasets as well as a newly created HAR dataset. Results verify that Meta-HAR is effective at maintaining high test accuracies for individual users, including new users, and significantly outperforms several baselines, including Federated Averaging, Reptile, and even centralized learning in certain cases. Our collected dataset will be open-sourced to facilitate future development in the field of sensor-based human activity recognition.

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