Section: Scientific Foundations

Data Mining

Data mining provides methods to discover new and useful patterns from very large sets of data. These patterns may take different forms, depending on the end-user's request, such as:

  • Frequent itemsets and association rules [1] . In this case, the data is usually a table with a high number of rows and the algorithm extracts correlations between column values. This problem was first motivated by commercial and marketing purposes (e.g. discovering frequent correlations between items bought in a shop, which could help selling more). A typical example of frequent itemset from a sensor network in a smart building would say that “in 20% rooms, the door is closed, the room is empty, and lights are on.”

  • Frequent sequential pattern extraction. This problem is very similar to frequent itemset mining, but in this case, the order between events has to be considered. Let us consider the smart-building example again. A frequent sequence, in this case, could say that “in 40% rooms, lights are on at time i, the room is empty at time i+j and the door is closed at time i+j+k”. Discovering frequent sequences has become a crucial need in marketing, but also in security (detecting network intrusions for instance) in usage analysis (web usage is one of the main applications) and any domain where data arrive in a specific order (usually given by timestamps).

  • Clustering [10] . The goal of clustering algorithms is to group together data that have similar characteristics, while ensuring that dissimilar data will not be in the same cluster. In our example of smart buildings, we would find clusters of rooms, where offices will be in one category and copy machine rooms in another one because of their characteristics (hours of people presence, number of times lights are turned on and off, etc.).

One of the main problems for data mining methods recently was to deal with data streams. Actually, data mining methods have first been designed for very large data sets where complex algorithms of artificial intelligence were not able to complete within reasonable time responses because of data size. The problem was thus to find a good trade-off between time response and results relevance. The patterns described above well match this trade-off since they both provide interesting knowledge for data analysts and allow algorithm having good time complexity on the number of records. Itemset mining algorithms, for instance, depend more on the number of columns (for a sensor it would be the number of possible items such as temperature, presence, status of lights, etc.) than the number of lines (number of sensors in the network). However, with the ever growing size of data and their production rate, a new kind of data source has recently emerged as data streams. A data stream is a sequence of events arriving at high rate. By “high rate”, we usually admit that traditional data mining methods reach their limits and cannot complete in real-time, given the data size. In order to extract knowledge from such streams, a new trade-off had to be found and the data mining community has investigated approximation methods that could allow maintaining a good quality of results for the above patterns extraction.

For scientific data, data mining now has to deal with new and challenging characteristics. First, scientific data is often associated to a level of uncertainty (typically, sensed values have to be associated to the probability that this value is correct or not). Second, scientific data might be extremely large and need cloud computing solutions for their storage and analysis. Eventually, we will have to deal with high dimension and heterogeneous data.