Data Preparation and Raw Data in Machine Learning: Why They Matter

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Read more about author Nahla Davies.

In our current digital age, data is being produced at an unprecedented rate. With the increasing reliance on technology in our personal and professional lives, the volume of data generated daily is expected to grow. This rapid increase in data has created a need for ways to make sense of it all. Machine learning is one such way. Machine learning algorithms can take large amounts of data and learn from it to make predictions or recommendations.

But for machine learning algorithms to be effective, the data must be clean and organized. This is where data preparation comes in. Data preparation is the process of getting the data into a form that can be used by the machine learning algorithm. This often involves cleaning and scaling the data and dealing with missing values. Without data preparation, you are likely to see worse results and may even find that your algorithm does not work at all.

This article will discuss the importance of data preparation for effective machine learning. We’ll cover the steps you must take and some easy strategies to increase data quality. 

Data Preparation Processes

Many people make the mistake of assuming that raw data can be directly processed without going through the data preparation process. This leads to failed models and a lot of wasted time.

The most important thing to remember is that each machine learning project is unique to its specific data sets. Because the data in one project may differ significantly from another, double-checking that the correct data preparation procedures are followed is extremely important. 

GIGO (Garbage in, Garbage Out)

If you want your data processing models to succeed, you must ensure that the data you’re using is of high quality. This means considering every step in the data collection process and making sure that the data will be able to serve a specific purpose.

To achieve data integration, data scientists consistently merge various data sets into one. Any data integration should empower developers to create a model that solves the problem at hand.

If the information used isn’t integrated properly and doesn’t meet certain requirements, the outcome will be of low quality. This is sometimes called the “garbage in, garbage out” in the dev world – if garbage is put inside a model, garbage will consequently come out.

How Raw Data Is Used

Raw data is data that has not been through any data preparation. It is simply the raw output of some process or measurement. While raw data can be useful, it is often not in a form that machine learning algorithms can use. This is why data preparation is so important.

If you don’t understand your data sources, you may discover that the raw data you have isn’t getting converted properly.

Here are some questions you and your team should be asking:

  • Where and how did you get the data?
  • How accurate is the data?
  • What does the data show?
  • What transformation of data is necessary to solve the problem at hand?

If your team can answer these questions, you are closer to resolving the issue.

Self-Service Data Preparation

With self-service data preparation, users can utilize tools to directly manage and process their raw data to achieve specific goals, rather than relying on people to do it for them manually.

There are tons of self-service data preparation tools on the market. Choosing the right ones can make or break your Data Management efforts. The best way to choose is to contact an experienced machine learning service provider who can help you select the right tools for your needs.

Although it’s not always that easy, in many cases, you’ll most likely require some more complex integration and Data Management.

The Data Preparation Steps

Although each machine learning project and the data it needs are different, there are some procedures that all machine learning processes have in common.

The most important steps in all data preparation processes include:

1. Understanding the Problem

It is essential to understand the problem you are trying to solve before wondering about your machine learning model’s requirements and data. Define what you hope to achieve, and then you can ask questions about how to get there.

For example, e-commerce businesses may want to use machine learning for fraud detection. In this case, the goal would be to find fraudulent charges before they are processed. 

To do this, you would need data on past fraudulent charges as well as other types of data that could be used to train a model to recognize future fraud. This is ideal for securing credit card transactions without worrying about being scammed, chargebacks, or other issues.

2. Data Preparation

As mentioned before, in this step, the data is used to solve the problem. This is the process of cleaning and organizing the data so that it can be used by machine learning algorithms.

There are two methods for data preparation:

  • Traditional
  • Machine learning techniques

The traditional data preparation method is costly, labor-intensive, and prone to errors. Machine learning algorithms can help overcome these issues by learning from huge, real-time datasets.

Machine learning techniques for data preparation include instance reduction and imputation of missing values. Instance reduction can be used to decrease the quantity of data without compromising the knowledge and quality of information that can be extracted. Data imputation is a method of replacing missing information with substituted values. 

3. Analyzing the Different Models

After you’ve prepared your data, you’ll need to assess various machine learning models to see which works best at addressing the issue. This entails establishing success criteria so that you can pick the ideal model.

For example, cyber threats and hacking are on the rise within the financial sector. Companies could deploy a variety of machine learning models to detect fraudulent behavior. In this case, the success criteria would be based on the model’s accuracy in detecting fraud.

4. Finalizing the Model

The final stage includes a synthesis of the knowledge pulled from assessing various models and selecting the most favorable option. This step may also involve tasks related to re-evaluating that model, such as integrating it into a production system or software project and developing a maintenance and monitoring schedule for the model.

Why Right Data Sets Are Essential

Simply put, you want the right input to get the right output. If you put garbage in, you’re going to get garbage out. I mean, that’s life, right? But it’s also true for machine learning.

Data sets can be too small, too large, or unbalanced. They can be missing data, have incorrect data, or be formatted in a way that is difficult to work with. All these factors can impact the performance of your machine learning model.

It is therefore essential to take the time to understand your data sets and make sure they are as clean and close to perfect as possible before moving on to the modeling stage.

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