Adv DBs: Unsupervised and Supervised Learning

Unsupervised and Supervised Learning:

Supervised learning is a type of machine learning that takes a given set of data points, we need to choose a function that gives users a classification or a value.  So, eventually, you will get data points that no longer defines a classification or a value, thus the machine now has to solve for that function. There are two main types of supervised learning: Classification (has a finite set, i.e. based on person’s chromosomes in a database, their biological gender is either male or female) and Regression (represents real numbers in the real space or n-dimensional real space).  In regression, you can have a 2-dimensional real space, with training data that gives you a regression formula with a Pearson’s correlation number r, given a new data point, can the machine use the regression formula with correlation r to predict where that data point will fall on in the 2-dimensional real space (Mathematicalmonk’s channel, 2011a).

Unsupervised learning aims to uncover homogenous subpopulations in databases (Connolly & Begg, 2015). In Unsupervised learning you are given data points (values, documents, strings, etc.) in n-dimensional real space, the machine will look for patterns through either clustering, density estimation, dimensional reduction, etc.  For clustering, one could take the data points and placing them in bins with common properties, sometimes unknown to the end-user due to the vast size of the data within the database.  With density estimation, the machine is fed a set of probability density functions to fit the data and it begins to estimates the density of that data set.  Finally, for dimensional reduction, the machine will find some lower dimensional space in which the data can be represented (Mathematicalmonk’s channel, 2011b).  With the dimensional reduction, it can destroy the structure that can be seen in the higher-order dimensions.

Applications suited to each method

  • Supervised: defining data transformations (Kelvin to Celsius, meters per second to miles per hour, classifying a biological male or female given the number of chromosomes, etc.), predicting weather (given the initial & boundary conditions, plug them into formulas that predict what will happen in the next time step).
  • Unsupervised: forecasting stock markets (through patterns identified in text mining news articles, or sentiment analysis), reducing demographical database data to common features that can easily describe why a certain population will fit a result over another (dimensional reduction), cloud classification dynamical weather models (weather models that use stochastic approximations, Monte Carlo simulations, or probability densities to generate cloud properties per grid point), finally real-time automated conversation translators (either spoken or closed captions).

Most important issues related to each method

Unsupervised machine learning is at the bedrock of big data analysis.  We could use training data (a set of predefined data that is representative of the real data in all its n-dimensions) to fine-tune the most unsupervised machine learning efforts to reduce error rates (Barak & Modarres, 2015). What I like most about unsupervised machine learning is its clustering and dimensional reduction capabilities, because it can quickly show me what is important about my big data set, without huge amounts of coding and testing on my end.


Adv DBs: Data warehouses and OLAP

Data warehouses allow for people with decision power to locate the adequate data quickly from one location that spans across multiple functional departments and is very well integrated to produce reports and in-depth analysis to make effective decisions (MUSE, 2015a). Data could be stored in n-dimensional data cubes that can be dissected, filtered through, rolled up into a dynamic application called Online analytical processing (OLAP). OLAP can be its own system or part of a data warehouse, and if it’s combined with data mining tools it creates a decision support system (DSS) to uncover/discover hidden relationships within the data (MUSE, 2015b). DSS needs both a place to store data and a way to store data.  The data warehouse doesn’t solve they “Why?” questions, but the “How?, What?, When?, Where?” and that is where OLAP helps.  We want to extract as much knowledge as possible for decision making from these systems, hence this explains why we need both in DSS to solve all questions not just a subset.  But, as aforementioned that data mining tools are also needed for a DSS.

Data Warehouses

Discovering knowledge through archives of data from multiple sources in a consolidated and integrated way is what this warehouse does best.  They are subject-oriented (organized by customers, products, sales, and not in the invoice, product sales), integrated (data from different sources in the enterprise perhaps in different formats), time-variant (varies with respect to time), and nonvolatile (new data is appended not replacing old).  Suitable applications to feed data can be mainframes, proprietary file systems, servers, internal workstations, external website data, etc., which can be used for analysis and discovering knowledge for effective data-based decision making.  Detailed data can be stored online if it can help support/supplement summarized data, so data warehouses can be technically light due to summarized data.  Summarized data, which is updated automatically as new data enters the warehouse, mainly help improve query speeds. So, where is the detailed data: offline (Connolly & Begg, 2015).  Looking into the architecture of this system:

The ODS, Operational data store, holds the data for staging into the data warehouse.  From staging the load manager performs all Extraction and Loading functions to the data into the warehouse, meanwhile, the warehouse manager performs all the Transformation functions to the data into the warehouse.  The query manager performs all the queries into the data warehouse. Metadata (definition of the data stored and its units) are used by all these processes and exist in the warehouse as well (Connolly & Begg, 2015).


Using analytics to answer the “Why?” questions from data that is placed in an n-dimensional aggregate view of the data that is a dynamical system, sets this apart from other query systems.  OLAP is more complex than statistical analysis on aggregated data, it’s more of a slice and dice with time series and data modeling.  OLAP servers come in four main flavors: Multidimensional OLAP (MOLAP: uses multidimensional databases where data is stored per usage), Relational OLAP (ROLAP: supports relational DBMS products with a metadata layer), Hybrid OLAP (HOLAP: certain data is ROLAP and other is in MOLAP), and Desktop OLAP (DOLAP: usually for small file extracts, data is stored in client files/systems like a laptop/desktop).

DSS, OLAP, and Data Warehouse Application

Car insurance claims DSS.  Insurance companies can use this system to analyze patterns of driving from people, what damage can or cannot occur due to an accident, and why someone might claim false damages to fix their cars or cash out.  Thus, their systems can define who, what, when, where, why and how per accident against all other accidents (they can slice and dice by state, type of accident, vehicle types involved, etc) they have processed to help them resolve if a claim is legitimate.