Enhancing the Locality and Breaking the Memory Bottleneck of Transformer on Time Series Forecasting

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 32 (NeurIPS 2019)

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Shiyang Li, Xiaoyong Jin, Yao Xuan, Xiyou Zhou, Wenhu Chen, Yu-Xiang Wang, Xifeng Yan


Time series forecasting is an important problem across many domains, including predictions of solar plant energy output, electricity consumption, and traffic jam situation. In this paper, we propose to tackle such forecasting problem with Transformer. Although impressed by its performance in our preliminary study, we found its two major weaknesses: (1) locality-agnostics: the point-wise dot- product self-attention in canonical Transformer architecture is insensitive to local context, which can make the model prone to anomalies in time series; (2) memory bottleneck: space complexity of canonical Transformer grows quadratically with sequence length L, making directly modeling long time series infeasible. In order to solve these two issues, we first propose convolutional self-attention by producing queries and keys with causal convolution so that local context can be better incorporated into attention mechanism. Then, we propose LogSparse Transformer with only O(L(log L)^2) memory cost, improving forecasting accuracy for time series with fine granularity and strong long-term dependencies under constrained memory budget. Our experiments on both synthetic data and real- world datasets show that it compares favorably to the state-of-the-art.