Unleashing the Power of Data Cleaning for Machine Learning Success

Hrvoje Smolic
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12/12/2022

Data Cleaning for Machine Learning

Data cleaning is a critical yet often overlooked step in the machine learning process. In a nutshell, it involves manually or automatically examining, transforming, and normalizing raw data so that it is formatted correctly for use with an AI model. Without proper data cleaning, machine learning algorithms are likely to be hindered by data problems such as missing values, outliers, and duplication – ultimately leading to inaccurate results. This post will explore why data cleaning is vital for non-technical people and how they can leverage automation and modern tools to prepare their datasets quickly and accurately.

Introduction to Machine Learning

In the digital transformation era, machine learning is quickly becoming necessary for companies aiming to remain competitive in their respective industries. According to Statista, an online statistics portal, global investment and trend analysis show that spending on AI technologies is expected to increase annually by more than 17 percent over the next decade, with spending forecasted at $95 billion in 2024.

Spending by governments and companies worldwide on AI technology will top $500 billion in 2023, according to IDC research.

This shift can be attributed to organizations striving for more accurate decision-making based on actionable inputs derived from AI and predictive analytics.

What Can You Do To Get Started Leveraging ML? 

With advances such as automated data cleaning & no-code machine learning tools, it's never been easier for businesses, large or small, to work towards unleashing the power of data cleansing technology within their organization. Without any doubt, results can turn out profoundly! All you need are modern options like these combined with shared best practices that could get you going.

a man cleaning dataset for machine learning
Image by the Author: an importance of data cleaning

What Is Data Cleaning?

Data cleaning is an essential process in machine learning, as it helps create datasets that provide the highest accuracy and most significant insights. According to a Gartner survey of CIOs, data-cleaning initiatives are among the top 10 priorities for AI investments. This isn't surprising since poor data quality can lead to inaccurate results and missed opportunities. In fact, statistics show that businesses can lose over $3 trillion due to bad data every year!   

The issues associated with getting your dataset "dirty" vary greatly depending on what kind of model or analysis you are running. Unfortunately, some common mistakes include missing values, outliers, or duplicated records. 

However, preventing these errors from occurring begins with good planning prior to using appropriate tools like validating input formats at the ingestion stage, producing reports that surface existing copies & invalid records, etc. As such, embracing automated frameworks when performing any machine learning task- be it finding patterns across huge amounts of complex structured/unstructured dataset sources – will go a long way toward making sure only high-quality datasets get used within your organization in the future. 

Investing in proper data cleansing measures and technologies today might be expensive. But, for companies interested in reaping ROI from ML projects, there is no escaping its role as one needs clean datasets before feeding them onto predictive models. You need that step, so they work correctly & deliver meaningful information quickly and accurately throughout their respective processes. 

According to recent statistics from Deloitte's AI initiative, 63% of respondent companies with poor data could not realize any benefit or ROI from their analytics activities - due to incomplete datasets and inconsistent formats.   

Missing values are particularly problematic in ML applications because they cause models to use extreme assumptions when predicting future outcomes- resulting in unreliable predictions that fail real-world tests for accuracy and precision. 

How machine learning algorithms rely on clean, organized data  

Machine learning algorithms are heavily reliant on the data that is input to them. With clean, organized datasets, these algorithms can be reliably and accurately used for predictive analysis or automated decision-making. According to a study by McKinsey & Company, only approximately 20% of data sets used in AI projects meet the quality standards necessary for reliable performance.   

Data cleaning involves techniques such as data imputation, outlier detection and removal, duplicate record removal, and general consistency checks that help ensure any given dataset meets quality standards. 

High-quality data can increase the accuracy of predictions and enable more informed decisions. However, low-quality datasets can lead to inaccurate estimations, missed opportunities, and even financial losses due to errors in models that typically rely on this type of data.   

Automated tools and services provide non-technical people with an efficient way to clean their datasets quickly and accurately without having to write any code at all - often resulting in far better insights than expected. Such modern-day options are increasingly being adopted by businesses of all sizes who are seeking reliable methods for improving datasets before using them in their AI applications. 

By leveraging automation and modern tools like these, organizations can unlock the full potential of machine learning with highly accurate results that support their business objectives in the future.

Properly addressing data quality issues is critical for any successful ML application as they directly affect the accuracy of its results. Recent studies have shown that up to 80% of a project's time is spent cleaning and preparing datasets before analysis or model building begins. That demonstrates the importance of taking proactive steps toward improving data quality before beginning work with any ML project. Automating validation checks and auditing inputs & outputs will help ensure your datasets remain clean throughout the entire lifecycle. It will also help you save time on repetitive tasks so you can focus more on innovation instead!

dirty dataset for machine learning
Image by the Author: a representation of dirty dataset with missing values

Key advantages of getting your dataset adequately prepared

Preparing your dataset before performing any analysis is paramount for efficiency. Clean and organized data can lead to more accurate, faster models since there is no need to spend time cleaning and organizing the data once it has been gathered. 

Studies have shown that a well-prepared dataset can allow machine learning algorithms to train models up to three times faster than one with dirty data. Additionally, this reduces the risk of errors due to wrong information in your dataset, meaning fewer costly mistakes.

Properly preparing your dataset also leads to improved accuracy in predictions from trained models, as dirty datasets may cause inaccurate results. It could be challenging to trace back the source of their origin, leading to poor decisions by a business or organization utilizing the model for its applications. Recent reports suggest that companies investing in AI initiatives are seeing improvement in performance metrics by 10-20% due to properly prepared datasets, enabling more significant insights into different aspects of operations compared to those who don't take these steps seriously.

Finally, taking measures such as automated auditing processes and utilizing modern-day solutions like automated tools & services can help ensure that you're always working with optimal datasets throughout the life cycle of your project. This way, you're able to ensure datasets are kept clean and organized without manually checking them every single time, saving time and resources. As organizations continue their journey towards digital transformation and leverage artificial intelligence technologies more frequently, data preparation will become increasingly important if they want successful outcomes from their projects.

How to clean your dataset

Start by understanding your project's business context and objectives

Before starting any data cleaning, it is essential to identify the project's purpose and goals and the data used. This helps to ensure that you are working with clean datasets that meet your organization's needs. 

Identify what types of data (structured/unstructured) you need to work with

Once you understand what type of data needs to be cleaned, it's time to start collecting and organizing it into usable formats for analysis or machine learning applications. 

Inspect each dataset for potential missing values or outliers: 

To ensure your dataset is consistent, look at each field for potential missing values or outliers that may skew results if not addressed beforehand. 

graphite note preprocessing for machine learning
Image by the Author: automated data preprocessing steps in Graphite Note

Check for duplicates in your database 

Having duplicate entries in your database can create many problems down the line when trying to do meaningful analysis or build models with ML algorithms. Therefore, it is vital to ensure there are no duplicates before moving forward with further steps in the data-cleaning process. 

Fill in any missing values

All missing values must be filled in with appropriate values or blanks if necessary to ensure accurate results when running analysis on a dataset. Depending on the type of data being worked with, this could involve imputing new information based on best guesses or removing them from consideration altogether, depending on the project's context and complexity. 

Remove any outliers if needed

An outlier is defined as an observation point that lies far outside other points in a given dataset. It can potentially lead to incorrect or misleading results if not removed from consideration during preprocessing stage before feeding data into model training pipelines later on down the line during the development process. Therefore they must be dealt with accordingly before introducing them into analytical procedures, so final results remain intact and reliable across the board regardless of the situation posed at hand! 

Scale all features appropriately

Scaling features across datasets should be done according to the specific algorithm's requirements. That means different approaches must be taken depending on the situation (i.e., normalizing ranges between 0-1 versus standardizing range between -1 +1 etc). This step goes hand-in-hand with feature engineering as well.

Handle categorical variables appropriately

Categorical variables need to be handled differently than numerical ones since they require special encoding techniques (i.e., one hot encoding versus label encoding). 

Checking accuracy after implementing changes 

After making adjustments, always double-check accuracy numbers, ensuring none has been negatively impacted.

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Conclusion

Data cleaning is essential to machine learning because it helps create reliable and accurate models. Poor data quality can cause various issues, such as missing values, outliers, duplication, etc. That's why data cleaning should be a priority for anyone who wants to build robust AI models and gain accuracy/speed gains. Thankfully, no-code tools & services have made it easier and faster to clean datasets without writing any code. Ultimately, automation and modern tools allow organizations to maximize their machine-learning potential.

No-code machine learning platforms like Graphite Note provide an array of benefits to the user:

  1. The platform takes care of data preprocessing, including filling in null values, identifying missing values, and eliminating collinearity. This allows users to quickly and accurately clean their datasets without writing any code.
  2. Graphite Note provides automated solutions for data cleaning, making it easier for non-technical professionals to get their datasets in order.
  3. The platform provides step-by-step guidance to help users understand the data cleaning process and apply it to their projects and machine learning models.

In short, Graphite Note offers a comprehensive solution for data cleaning and machine learning success.

Now that you are here...

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