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Clustering in Machine Learning

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Introduction to Clustering: It is basically a type of unsupervised learning method. An unsupervised learning method is a method in which we draw references from datasets consisting of input data without labeled responses. Generally, it is used as a process to find meaningful structure, explanatory underlying processes, generative features, and groupings inherent in a set of examples. 

Clustering is the task of dividing the population or data points into a number of groups such that data points in the same groups are more similar to other data points in the same group and dissimilar to the data points in other groups. It is basically a collection of objects on the basis of similarity and dissimilarity between them. 

For example The data points in the graph below clustered together can be classified into one single group. We can distinguish the clusters, and we can identify that there are 3 clusters in the below picture.

It is not necessary for clusters to be spherical as depicted below: 

DBSCAN: Density-based Spatial Clustering of Applications with Noise 

These data points are clustered by using the basic concept that the data point lies within the given constraint from the cluster center. Various distance methods and techniques are used for the calculation of the outliers.

Why Clustering? 

Clustering is very much important as it determines the intrinsic grouping among the unlabelled data present. There are no criteria for good clustering. It depends on the user, and what criteria they may use which satisfy their need. For instance, we could be interested in finding representatives for homogeneous groups (data reduction), finding “natural clusters” and describing their unknown properties (“natural” data types), in finding useful and suitable groupings (“useful” data classes) or in finding unusual data objects (outlier detection). This algorithm must make some assumptions that constitute the similarity of points and each assumption make different and equally valid clusters. 

Clustering Methods: 

  • Density-Based Methods: These methods consider the clusters as the dense region having some similarities and differences from the lower dense region of the space. These methods have good accuracy and the ability to merge two clusters. Example DBSCAN (Density-Based Spatial Clustering of Applications with Noise), OPTICS (Ordering Points to Identify Clustering Structure), etc.
  • Hierarchical Based Methods: The clusters formed in this method form a tree-type structure based on the hierarchy. New clusters are formed using the previously formed one. It is divided into two category 
    • Agglomerative (bottom-up approach)
    • Divisive (top-down approach)

Examples CURE (Clustering Using Representatives), BIRCH (Balanced Iterative Reducing Clustering and using Hierarchies), etc.

  • Partitioning Methods: These methods partition the objects into k clusters and each partition forms one cluster. This method is used to optimize an objective criterion similarity function such as when the distance is a major parameter example K-means, CLARANS (Clustering Large Applications based upon Randomized Search), etc.
  • Grid-based Methods: In this method, the data space is formulated into a finite number of cells that form a grid-like structure. All the clustering operations done on these grids are fast and independent of the number of data objects example STING (Statistical Information Grid), wave cluster, CLIQUE (CLustering In Quest), etc.

Clustering Algorithms: K-means clustering algorithm – It is the simplest unsupervised learning algorithm that solves clustering problem.K-means algorithm partitions n observations into k clusters where each observation belongs to the cluster with the nearest mean serving as a prototype of the cluster. 

Applications of Clustering in different fields:

  1. Marketing: It can be used to characterize & discover customer segments for marketing purposes.
  2. Biology: It can be used for classification among different species of plants and animals.
  3. Libraries: It is used in clustering different books on the basis of topics and information.
  4. Insurance: It is used to acknowledge the customers, their policies and identifying the frauds.
  5. City Planning: It is used to make groups of houses and to study their values based on their geographical locations and other factors present. 
  6. Earthquake studies: By learning the earthquake-affected areas we can determine the dangerous zones. 
  7. Image Processing: Clustering can be used to group similar images together, classify images based on content, and identify patterns in image data.
  8. Genetics: Clustering is used to group genes that have similar expression patterns and identify gene networks that work together in biological processes.
  9. Finance: Clustering is used to identify market segments based on customer behavior, identify patterns in stock market data, and analyze risk in investment portfolios.
  10. Customer Service: Clustering is used to group customer inquiries and complaints into categories, identify common issues, and develop targeted solutions.
  11. Manufacturing: Clustering is used to group similar products together, optimize production processes, and identify defects in manufacturing processes.
  12. Medical diagnosis: Clustering is used to group patients with similar symptoms or diseases, which helps in making accurate diagnoses and identifying effective treatments.
  13. Fraud detection: Clustering is used to identify suspicious patterns or anomalies in financial transactions, which can help in detecting fraud or other financial crimes.
  14. Traffic analysis: Clustering is used to group similar patterns of traffic data, such as peak hours, routes, and speeds, which can help in improving transportation planning and infrastructure.
  15. Social network analysis: Clustering is used to identify communities or groups within social networks, which can help in understanding social behavior, influence, and trends.
  16. Cybersecurity: Clustering is used to group similar patterns of network traffic or system behavior, which can help in detecting and preventing cyberattacks.
  17. Climate analysis: Clustering is used to group similar patterns of climate data, such as temperature, precipitation, and wind, which can help in understanding climate change and its impact on the environment.
  18. Sports analysis: Clustering is used to group similar patterns of player or team performance data, which can help in analyzing player or team strengths and weaknesses and making strategic decisions.
  19. Crime analysis: Clustering is used to group similar patterns of crime data, such as location, time, and type, which can help in identifying crime hotspots, predicting future crime trends, and improving crime prevention strategies.

Last Updated : 09 May, 2023
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