Data Science in Engineering Process - Product Lifecycle Management

How to develop digital products and solutions for industrial environments?

The Data Science and Engineering Process in PLM.

Huge opportunities for digital products are accompanied by huge risks

Digitalization is about to profoundly change the way we live and work. The increasing availability of data combined with growing storage capacities and computing power make it possible to create data-based products, services, and customer specific solutions to create insight with value for the business. Successful implementation requires systematic procedures for managing and analyzing data, but today such procedures are not covered in the PLM processes.

From our experience in industrial settings, organizations start processing the data that happens to be available. This data often does not fully cover the situation of interest, typically has poor quality, and in turn the results of data analysis are misleading. In industrial environments, the reliability and accuracy of results are crucial. Therefore, an enormous responsibility comes with the development of digital products and solutions. Unless there are systematic procedures in place to guide data management and data analysis in the development lifecycle, many promising digital products will not meet expectations.

Various methodologies exist but no comprehensive framework

Over the last decades, various methodologies focusing on specific aspects of how to deal with data were promoted across industries and academia. Examples are Six Sigma, CRISP-DM, JDM standard, DMM model, and KDD process. These methodologies aim at introducing principles for systematic data management and data analysis. Each methodology makes an important contribution to the overall picture of how to deal with data, but none provides a comprehensive framework covering all the necessary tasks and activities for the development of digital products. We should take these approaches as valuable input and integrate their strengths into a comprehensive Data Science and Engineering framework.

In fact, we believe it is time to establish an independent discipline to address the specific challenges of developing digital products, services and customer specific solutions. We need the same kind of professionalism in dealing with data that has been achieved in the established branches of engineering.

Data Science and Engineering as new discipline

Whereas the implementation of software algorithms is adequately guided by software engineering practices, there is currently no established engineering discipline covering the important tasks that focus on the data and how to develop causal models that capture the real world. We believe the development of industrial grade digital products and services requires an additional process area comprising best practices for data management and data analysis. This process area addresses the specific roles, skills, tasks, methods, tools, and management that are needed to succeed.

Figure: Data Science and Engineering as new engineering discipline

More than in other engineering disciplines, the outputs of Data Science and Engineering are created in repetitions of tasks in iterative cycles. The tasks are therefore organized into workflows with distinct objectives that clearly overlap along the phases of the PLM process.

Feasibility of Objectives
  Understand the business situation, confirm the feasibility of the product idea, clarify the data infrastructure needs, and create transparency on opportunities and risks related to the product idea from the data perspective.
Domain Understanding
  Establish an understanding of the causal context of the application domain, identify the influencing factors with impact on the outcomes in the operational scenarios where the digital product or service is going to be used.
Data Management
  Develop the data management strategy, define policies on data lifecycle management, design the specific solution architecture, and validate the technical solution after implementation.
Data Collection
  Define, implement and execute operational procedures for selecting, pre-processing, and transforming data as basis for further analysis. Ensure data quality by performing measurement system analysis and data integrity checks.
Modeling
  Select suitable modeling techniques and create a calibrated prediction model, which includes fitting the parameters or training the model and verifying the accuracy and precision of the prediction model.
Insight Provision
  Incorporate the prediction model into a digital product or solution, provide suitable visualizations to address the information needs, evaluate the accuracy of the prediction results, and establish feedback loops.

Real business value will be generated only if the prediction model at the core of the digital product reliably and accurately reflects the real world, and the results allow to derive not only correct but also helpful conclusions. Now is the time to embrace the unique chances by establishing professionalism in data science and engineering.

Authors

Peter Louis                               

Peter Louis is working at Siemens Advanta Consulting as Senior Key Expert. He has 25 years’ experience in Project Management, Quality Management, Software Engineering, Statistical Process Control, and various process frameworks (Lean, Agile, CMMI). He is an expert on SPC, KPI systems, data analytics, prediction modelling, and Six Sigma Black Belt.


Ralf Russ    

Ralf Russ works as a Principal Key Expert at Siemens Advanta Consulting. He has more than two decades experience rolling out frameworks for development of industrial-grade high quality products, services, and solutions. He is Six Sigma Master Black Belt and passionate about process transparency, optimization, anomaly detection, and prediction modelling using statistics and data analytics.4


Must-have Skills to Master Data Science

The need to process a massive amount of data sets is making Data Science the most-demanded job across diverse industry verticals. In today’s times, organizations are actively looking for Data Scientists.

But What does a Data Scientist do?

Data Scientist design data models, create various algorithms to extract the data the organization needs, and then they analyze the gathered data and communicate the data insights with the business stakeholders.

If you are looking forward to pursuing a career in Data Science, then this blog is for you 🙂

Data Scientists often come from many different educational and work experience backgrounds but few skills are common and essential.

Let’s have a look at all the essential skills required to become a Data Scientist:

  1. Multivariable Calculus & Linear Algebra
  2. Probability & Statistics
  3. Programming Skills (Python & R)
  4. Machine Learning Algorithms
  5. Data Visualization
  6. Data Wrangling
  7. Data Intuition

Let’s dive deeper into all these skills one by one.

 

Multivariable Calculus & Linear Algebra:

Having a solid understanding of math concepts is very helpful for a Data Scientist.

Key Concepts:

  • Matrices
  • Linear Algebra Functions
  • Derivatives and Gradient
  • Relational Algebra

Probability & Statistics:

Probability and Statistics play a major role in Data Science for estimation and prediction purposes.

Key concepts required:

  • Probability Distributions
  • Conditional Probability
  • Bayesian Thinking
  • Descriptive Statistics
  • Random Variables
  • Hypothesis Testing and Regression
  • Maximum Likelihood Estimation

Programming Skills (Python & R):

Python :

Start with Python Fundamentals using a jupyter notebook, which comes pre-packaged with Python libraries.

Important Python Libraries used:

  • NumPy (For Data Exploration)
  • Pandas (For Data Exploration)
  • Matplotlib (For Data Visualization)

R:

It is a programming language and software environment used for statistical computing and graphics. 

Key Concepts required:

  • R Languages fundamentals and basic syntax
  • Vectors, Matrices, Factors
  • Data frames
  • Basic Graphics

Machine Learning Algorithms

Machine Learning is an innovative and essential field in the industry. There are quite a few algorithms out there, major ones are as follows –

  • Linear Regression
  • Logistic Regression
  • Decision Trees
  • Random Forest
  • Naïve Bayes
  • Support Vector Machines
  • Dimensionality Reduction
  • K-means
  • Artificial Neural Networks

Data Visualization:

Data visualization is very essential when it comes to analyzing a massive amount of information and data. 

To make data-driven decisions, data visualization tools, and technologies are essential in the world of Data Science.

Data Visualization tools:

  • Tableau
  • Microsoft Power Bi
  • E Charts
  • Datawrapper
  • HighCharts

Data Wrangling:

Data wrangling, this term refers to the process of cleaning and refining the messy and complex data available into a more usable format. 

It is considered one of the most crucial parts of working with data.

Important Steps to Data Wrangling:

  1. Discovering
  2. Structuring
  3. Cleaning
  4. Enriching
  5. Validating
  6. Documenting

Tools used:

  • Tabula
  • Google DataPrep
  • Data Wrangler
  • CSVkit

Data Wrangling can be done using Python and R.

Data Intuition:

Data Intuition in Data Science is an intuitive understanding of concepts. It’s one of the most significant skills required to become a Data Scientist.

It’s about recognizing patterns where none are observable on the surface.

This is something that you need to develop. It is a skill that will only come with experience.

A Data Scientist should know which Data Science methods to apply to the problem at hand.

Conclusion:

 As you can see, all these skills – from programming to algorithmic methods, work with one another to build on top of each other for gathering deeper data insights.

There are a wide number of courses available online for developing these skills and to help you become a true talent in this data industry.

Sure, this journey isn’t an easy one to follow but it’s not impossible. With sheer determination and consistency, you will be able to cross all the hurdles in your Data Science career path.

Severity of lockdowns and how they are reflected in mobility data

The global spread of the SARS-CoV-2 at the beginning of March 2020 forced majority of countries to introduce measures to contain the virus. The governments found themselves facing a very difficult tradeoff between limiting the spread of the virus and bearing potentially catastrophic economical costs of a lockdown. Notably, considering the level of globalization today, the response of countries varied a lot in severity and response latency. In the overwhelming amount of media and social media information feed a lot of misinformation and anecdotal evidence surfaced and remained in people’s mind. In this article, I try to have a more systematic view on the topics of severity of response from governments and change in people’s mobility due to the pandemic.

I want to look at several countries with different approach to restraining the spread of the virus. I will look at governmental regulations, when, and how they were introduced. For that I am referring to an index called Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT)[1]. The OxCGRT follows, records, and rates the actions taken by governments, that are available publicly. However, looking just at the regulations and taking them for granted does not provide that we have the whole picture. Therefore, equally interesting is the investigation of how the recommended levels of self-isolation and social distancing is reflected in the mobility data and we will look at it first.

The mobility dataset

The mobility data used in this article was collected by Google and made freely accessible[2]. The data reflects how the number of visits and their length changed as compared to a baseline from before the pandemic. The baseline is the median value for the corresponding day of the week in the period from 3.01.2020 – 6.02.2020. The dataset contains data in six categories. Here we look at only 4 of them: public transport stations, places of residence, workplaces, and retail/recreation (including shopping centers, libraries, gastronomy, culture). The analysis intentionally omits parks (public beaches, gardens etc.) and grocery/pharmacy category. Mobility in parks is excluded due to huge weather change confound. The baseline was created in winter and increased/decreased (depending on the hemisphere) activity in parks is expected as the weather changes. It would be difficult to detangle tis change from the change caused by the pandemic without referring to a different baseline. The grocery shops and pharmacies are excluded because the measures regarding the shopping were very similar across the countries.

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic a lot of anecdotal information surfaced, that some countries, like Sweden, acted completely against the current by not introducing a lockdown. It was reported that there were absolutely no restrictions and Sweden can be basically treated as a control group for comparing the different approaches to lockdown on the spread of the coronavirus. Looking at the mobility data (below), we can see however, that there was a change in the mobility of Swedish citizens in comparison to the baseline.

Fig. 1 Moving average (+/- 6 days) of the mobility data in Sweden in four categories.

Fig. 1 Moving average (+/- 6 days) of the mobility data in Sweden in four categories.

Looking at the change in mobility in Sweden, we can see that the change in the residential areas is small, but it is indicating some change in behavior. A change in the retail and recreational sector is more noticeable. Most interestingly it is approaching the baseline levels at the beginning of June. The most substantial changes, however, are in the workplaces and transit categories. They are also much slower to come back to the baseline, although a trend in that direction starts to be visible.

Next, let us have a look at the change in mobility in selected countries, separately for each category. Here, I compare Germany, Sweden, Italy, and New Zealand. (To see the mobility data for other countries visit https://covid19.datanomiq.de/#section-mobility).

Fig. 2 Moving average (+/- 6 days) of the mobility data.

Fig. 2 Moving average (+/- 6 days) of the mobility data.

Looking at the data, we can see that the change in mobility in Germany and Sweden was somewhat similar in orders of magnitude, in comparison to changes in mobility in countries like Italy and New Zealand. Without a doubt, the behavior in Sweden changed the least from the baseline in all the categories. Nevertheless, claiming that people’s reaction to the pandemic in Sweden in Germany were polar opposites is not necessarily correct. The biggest discrepancy between Sweden and Germany is in the retail and recreation sector out of all categories presented. The changes in Italy and New Zealand reached very comparable levels, but in New Zealand they seem to be much more dynamic, especially in approaching the baseline levels again.

The government response dataset

Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker records regulations from number of countries, rates them and categorizes into a few indices. The number between 1 and 100 reflects the level of the action taken by a government. Here, I focus on the Containment and Health sub-index that includes 11 indicators from categories: containment and closure policies and health system policies[3]. The actions included in the index are for example: school and workplace closing, restrictions on public events, travel restrictions, public information campaigns, testing policy and contact tracing.

Below, we look at a plot with the Containment and Health sub-index value for the four aforementioned countries. Data and documentation is available here[4]

Fig. 3 Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker, the Containment and Health sub-index.

Fig. 3 Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker, the Containment and Health sub-index.

Here the difference between Sweden and the other countries that we are looking at becomes more apparent. Nevertheless, the Swedish government did take some measures in order to condemn the spread of the SARS-CoV-2. At the highest, the index reached value 45 points in Sweden, 73 in Germany, 92 in Italy and 94 in New Zealand. In all these countries except for Sweden the index started dropping again, while the drop is the most dynamic in New Zealand and the index has basically reached the level of Sweden.

Conclusions

As we have hopefully seen, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic from governments differed substantially, as well as the resulting change in mobility behavior of the inhabitants did. However, the discrepancies were probably not as big as reported in the media.

The overwhelming presence of the social media could have blown some of the mentioned differences out of proportion. For example, the discrepancy in the mobility behavior between Sweden and Germany was biggest in recreation sector, that involves cafes, restaurants, cultural resorts, and shopping centers. It is possible, that those activities were the ones that people in lockdown missed the most. Looking at Swedes, who were participating in them it was easy to extrapolate on the overall landscape of the response to the virus in the country.

It is very hard to say which of the world country’s approach will bring the best effects for the people’s well-being and the economies. The ongoing pandemic will remain a topic of extensive research for many years to come. We will (most probably) eventually find out which approach to the lockdown was the most optimal (or at least come close to finding out). For the time being, it is however important to remember that there are many factors in play and looking into one type of data might be misleading. Comparing countries with different history, weather, political and economic climate, or population density might be misleading as well. But it is still more insightful than not looking into the data at all.

[1] Hale, Thomas, Sam Webster, Anna Petherick, Toby Phillips, and Beatriz Kira (2020). Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker, Blavatnik School of Government. Data use policy: Creative Commons Attribution CC BY standard.

[2] Google LLC “Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports”. https://www.google.com/covid19/mobility/ retrived: 04.06.2020

[3] See documentation https://github.com/OxCGRT/covid-policy-tracker/tree/master/documentation

[4] https://github.com/OxCGRT/covid-policy-tracker  retrieved on 04.06.2020

Capturing COVID: How and Why Data Mining is Being Used to Combat Coronavirus

Image Source: Pixabay (https://pixabay.com/illustrations/artificial-intelligence-brain-think-3382507/)

In just a few short months, the coronavirus pandemic has infiltrated pretty much every aspect of daily life. It has virtually decimated the global economy. It has taken our children out of their schools. It’s wrought havoc on an already overburdened healthcare system.

That, however, is changing. And technology is the reason why. Data mining is nothing new, of course, and its use in the field of healthcare is well-established.

But the importance of data mining has never been more apparent than right now, as scientists, researchers, and healthcare providers race to develop a clear and effective profile of this unseen adversary.

What is Data Mining and Why Does It Matter?

Put simply, data mining uses automated technology to scour other technologies for relevant information collected from the tech’s users. Data scientists then analyze these enormous — and we do mean enormous — quantities of data for some actionable purpose.

Big data can be used for anything from developing a targeted market plan for a large multinational based on customer research to formulating emergency preparedness plans based on community risk assessments to investigating crime scenes.

Data Mining, Healthcare, and Corona

In the face of rising healthcare costs, surging demand, and shrinking resources, data mining has proved an invaluable tool for evidence-based healthcare. For years now, anonymized patient data has been mined to identify public health concerns, individual patient risks, and customized treatment protocols. All of these are derived from the nearly instantaneous automated analysis of literally billions of gigabytes of data.

When it comes to combating coronavirus, data mining is turning out to be one of the most powerful weapons in the public health arsenal. Through healthcare data, researchers and policymakers can better describe the virus, its impacts, and its behaviors.

For example, COVID patients’ electronic health records (EHR) are being anonymized and mined for data on how the virus presented, what course it took, and what pre-existing factors, from age and gender to prior health status, the patient had. Likewise, hospital and clinical data are collected to determine how many patients, and in what demographics, were presenting with symptoms of the disease at any given time.

Once a more comprehensive description of the virus has been developed, researchers can use this information to predict who will be affected, how, and where. Armed with this knowledge, public health officials can make informed decisions on policies to help prevent or slow the spread.

Likewise, healthcare providers can devise more effective treatment plans based on success rates drawn from data accumulated from across the globe. They can even use the information drawn from mined healthcare data to determine who is at great risk for a poor outcome or severe complications, such as blood clots.

For example, these data can help determine who might be the best candidate for convalescent plasma or antivirals like Remdesivir. Scientists and healthcare providers are also increasingly cognizant of the risk of a severe autoimmune syndrome that children who have been exposed to the virus might experience, even if they had never become symptomatic for COVID.

The Really Smartphone

It’s not just patient records and other medical data that are being mined in the fight against coronavirus. As it turns out, your friendly, unassuming little smartphone is proving to be a treasure trove of essential public health data.

Your cell phone data plan allows you to live your digital life via your smartphone. When you’re streaming videos or surfing the web on your phone, you’re almost certainly using data, and that data can be mined — both for malicious (or at least questionable) purposes and for good ones.

When you link your smartphone to the network, your movements can be tracked using your phone’s geolocation capabilities. To be sure, that capability hasn’t gone without significant opposition from privacy advocates. Significant fears over the security of that data and how it might be used has fueled a long and often heated debate, both in courts of law and in the court of public opinion.

But now, in the face of a global pandemic, with the virus continuing to menace nearly every corner of the globe, the capacity to track the movements of those who have been in active hot zones, and especially of travelers coming from them, isn’t just helpful. It’s lifesaving. Through the use of cellphone data, for instance, not only can scientists track the spread of the virus, but they can also engage in more effective contract tracing. This includes the ability to warn individuals who have been in close proximity to an infected person.

The Takeaway

The coronavirus pandemic is like nothing many of us have ever seen before. This previously unknown pathogen has changed the world as we once knew it. It has not only altered the way we live, but it has threatened our own lives and the lives of those we love. But the virus will not be able to exploit its novelty for much longer. Every day, scientists and researchers are mining essential data to better understand the virus, what it does, and how it moves. Every moment, new treatment and containment strategies are emerging based on the power of big data. Every second, we are mining for the data for the weapon that will kill the enemy once and for all.

 How Text to Speech Voices Are Used In Data Science

To speak on voices, text to speech platforms are bringing versatility to a new scale by implementing voices that sound more personal and less like a robot. As these services gain traction, vocal quality, and implementation improve to give sounds that feel like they’re speaking to you from a human mouth.

The intention of most text to speech platforms have always been to provide experiences that users feel comfortable using. Voices are a huge part of that, so great strides have been taken to ensure that they sound right.

How Voices are Utilized

Voices in the text to speech are generated by a computer itself. As the computer-generated voices transcribe the text into oral responses, they make up what we hear as dialogue read to us. These voice clips initially had the problem of sounding robotic and unpersonable as they were pulled digitally together. Lately, though, the technology has improved to bring faster response time in transcribing words, as well as seamlessly stringing together. This has brought the advantage of making a computer-generated voice sound much more natural and human. As people seek to connect more with the works they read, having a human-sounding voice is a huge step in letting listeners relate to their works.

To give an example of where this works, you might have a GPS in your car. The GPS has a function where it will transcribe the car’s route and tell you each instruction. Some GPS companies have made full use of this feature and added fun voices to help entertain drivers. These include Darth Vader and Yoda from Star Wars or having Morgan Freeman and Homer Simpson narrate your route. Different voice types are utilized in services depending on the situation. Professional uses like customer service centers will keep automated voices sounding professional and courteous when assisting customers. Educational systems will keep softer and kinder sounding voices to help sound more friendly with students.

When compared to older solutions, the rise of vocal variety in Text to Speech services has taken huge leaps as more people see the value of having a voice that they can connect to. Expressive voices and emotional variance are being applied to voices to help further convey this, with happy or sad sounding voices being implemented wherever appropriate. As time goes on, these services will get better at the reading context within sentences to apply emotion and tone at the correct times, and improve overall vocal quality as well. These reinvent past methods by advancing the once static and robotic sounds that used to be commonplace among text to voice services.

More infrastructures adopt these services to expand their reach to consumers who might not have the capabilities to utilize their offerings.  Having clear and relatable voices matter because customers and users will be drawn to them considerably more than if they chose not to offer them at all. In the near future text to speech voices will develop even further, enhancing the way people of all kinds connect to the words they read.

Data Science Security Hacks

It would blow your mind if you had exposure to all the information available on the internet. The science behind it is very demanding. It could explain why there is such an explosion of intelligent systems. People come in with different skill sets, including math, data analysis, statistics, and programming, to name a few.

They all use very orthodox methods in their approach to data science. But, we have people with hacker mindsets who think out of the box. You will find them using security hacks to circumvent the scientific approach to data science. Our article will explore some of the methods they use, and why you may need an SSL certificate.

Understanding Data Science

Data science is the use of different tools, machine learning principles and algorithms to shift through raw data to discover any hidden patterns. The scientist will use the information to make predictions and decisions through the use of prescriptive analytics, machine learning, and predictive analytics. They collect data from multiple sources and organize it before translating it into results.

The scientists come to their conclusions by looking at a problem from all viewpoints and asking the right questions. Many companies are using these services to make sound business decisions. You will find the use of data science in areas such as risk and fraud detection, healthcare, advertising, and even gaming.

Data Science Security Hacks

  • Data Protection 

Data is everything to a data scientist. However, they are always at threat of losing it due to a rise in cybersecurity threats. Online hackers are getting more daring and sophisticated and are continually coming up with new ways to access people’s information. It is, therefore, critical to protecting one’s privacy and security while on the internet.

Phishing attacks and malware are genuine threats to the digital space. SSL certificates provide data security because it protects the user from unwanted third party tampering. You can find many types of SSL certificates like single domain, Code Signing certificate, multi-domain SSL, etc.

  • Having the Mindset of a Hacker

A typical scientific mindset is to build models, train, plot graphs, and analyze the different attributes to come up with a solution. The mindset of a hacker is very different from that of a scientist. They focus more on finding Solutions using simple methods.

While the data scientists use so many various components to a problem, the hacker works at eliminating complexity to come up with a solution. The hacker mindset is, therefore, freer, because the confines of the scientific mind do not bound them.

  • Data Cleaning Techniques

There are tons of raw data that data scientists have to work with. Once they collect it, it has to go through the process of cleaning. It is a very complex process because scientists will be working with unstructured data. It is, however, a critical component of data science because scientists will have to extract what they need.

They are then able to process the data and structure it into usable data that will yield the required outcome. One of the ways of achieving the best results might be to use the most straightforward models available. The sophisticated tools do not always give the desired results. Even if they do, they may make the process more tedious and time-consuming than necessary.

  • The Learning Never Ends

In the field of data science, look at it more like a journey, and not a process to get to a destination. They must, therefore, always learn because the domain is vast, and there is new information coming in every day. It is in the process of learning that they can come up with more intelligent models for use within the field. They keep abreast of the latest innovations and technologies, which they can use in their daily problem-solving processes.

The online platform has so much information for anyone interested in developing their skill sets. You do not need to go to a classroom to stay up-to-date with what is happening. You can get information online. The data scientists also share their knowledge in different forums or platforms, thereby providing invaluable resources to fellow practitioners.

  • Knowledge of Domains

One of the critical steps data scientists take is to understand precisely what it is they are working with. If, for example, they are working in the agricultural field, they have to follow the industry to understand any data they collect. It would be unreasonable to expect the scientist to give useful insights and analysis without understanding the industry.

Domain knowledge is, therefore, a critical element of data science. With proper understanding, we can expect a better output from the scientists. Those in the industry can then apply the findings within their relevant areas for better productivity.

  • Cheat Sheets Hacks

Data Science is not a simple field, and you get to learn so much every day. Unless you have one of those super memories, it will be hard to remember everything. That is why data scientists have cheat sheets. There are many such cheat sheets online for anyone who needs one.

Final Thoughts

Data science continues to gain relevance in different fields, and it will continue to grow due to the demand from various industries. It is already very critical in areas such as health care, fraud detection, and agriculture, to name a few. The most vital data security hack for a data scientist is the Installation of an SSL certificate. It will protect from hackers while on the internet. It would be a pity to lose all the data to cybercriminals because of a hack that is simple to install and inexpensive.

Simple RNN

Prerequisites for understanding RNN at a more mathematical level

Writing the A gentle introduction to the tiresome part of understanding RNN Article Series on recurrent neural network (RNN) is nothing like a creative or ingenious idea. It is quite an ordinary topic. But still I am going to write my own new article on this ordinary topic because I have been frustrated by lack of sufficient explanations on RNN for slow learners like me.

I think many of readers of articles on this website at least know that RNN is a type of neural network used for AI tasks, such as time series prediction, machine translation, and voice recognition. But if you do not understand how RNNs work, especially during its back propagation, this blog series is for you.

After reading this articles series, I think you will be able to understand RNN in more mathematical and abstract ways. But in case some of the readers are allergic or intolerant to mathematics, I tried to use as little mathematics as possible.

Ideal prerequisite knowledge:

  • Some understanding on densely connected layers (or fully connected layers, multilayer perception) and how their forward/back propagation work.
  •  Some understanding on structure of Convolutional Neural Network.

*In this article “Densely Connected Layers” is written as “DCL,” and “Convolutional Neural Network” as “CNN.”

1, Difficulty of Understanding RNN

I bet a part of difficulty of understanding RNN comes from the variety of its structures. If you search “recurrent neural network” on Google Image or something, you will see what I mean. But that cannot be helped because RNN enables a variety of tasks.

Another major difficulty of understanding RNN is understanding its back propagation algorithm. I think some of you found it hard to understand chain rules in calculating back propagation of densely connected layers, where you have to make the most of linear algebra. And I have to say backprop of RNN, especially LSTM, is a monster of chain rules. I am planing to upload not only a blog post on RNN backprop, but also a presentation slides with animations to make it more understandable, in some external links.

In order to avoid such confusions, I am going to introduce a very simplified type of RNN, which I call a “simple RNN.” The RNN displayed as the head image of this article is a simple RNN.

2, How Neurons are Connected

    \begin{equation*}   1 = 3 - 2 \end{equation*}

How to connect neurons and how to activate them is what neural networks are all about. Structures of those neurons are easy to grasp as long as that is about DCL or CNN. But when it comes to the structure of RNN, many study materials try to avoid showing that RNNs are also connections of neurons, as well as DCL or CNN(*If you are not sure how neurons are connected in CNN, this link should be helpful. Draw a random digit in the square at the corner.). In fact the structure of RNN is also the same, and as long as it is a simple RNN, and it is not hard to visualize its structure.

Even though RNN is also connections of neurons, usually most RNN charts are simplified, using blackboxes. In case of simple RNN, most study material would display it as the chart below.

But that also cannot be helped because fancier RNN have more complicated connections of neurons, and there are no longer advantages of displaying RNN as connections of neurons, and you would need to understand RNN in more abstract way, I mean, as you see in most of textbooks.

I am going to explain details of simple RNN in the next article of this series.

3, Neural Networks as Mappings

If you still think that neural networks are something like magical spider webs or models of brain tissues, forget that. They are just ordinary mappings.

If you have been allergic to mathematics in your life, you might have never heard of the word “mapping.” If so, at least please keep it in mind that the equation y=f(x), which most people would have seen in compulsory education, is a part of mapping. If you get a value x, you get a value y corresponding to the x.

But in case of deep learning, x is a vector or a tensor, and it is denoted with \boldsymbol{x} . If you have never studied linear algebra , imagine that a vector is a column of Excel data (only one column), a matrix is a sheet of Excel data (with some rows and columns), and a tensor is some sheets of Excel data (each sheet does not necessarily contain only one column.)

CNNs are mainly used for image processing, so their inputs are usually image data. Image data are in many cases (3, hight, width) tensors because usually an image has red, blue, green channels, and the image in each channel can be expressed as a hight*width matrix (the “height” and the “width” are number of pixels, so they are discrete numbers).

The convolutional part of CNN (which I call “feature extraction part”) maps the tensors to a vector, and the last part is usually DCL, which works as classifier/regressor. At the end of the feature extraction part, you get a vector. I call it a “semantic vector” because the vector has information of “meaning” of the input image. In this link you can see maps of pictures plotted depending on the semantic vector. You can see that even if the pictures are not necessarily close pixelwise, they are close in terms of the “meanings” of the images.

In the example of a dog/cat classifier introduced by François Chollet, the developer of Keras, the CNN maps (3, 150, 150) tensors to 2-dimensional vectors, (1, 0) or (0, 1) for (dog, cat).

Wrapping up the points above, at least you should keep two points in mind: first, DCL is a classifier or a regressor, and CNN is a feature extractor used for image processing. And another important thing is, feature extraction parts of CNNs map images to vectors which are more related to the “meaning” of the image.

Importantly, I would like you to understand RNN this way. An RNN is also just a mapping.

*I recommend you to at least take a look at the beautiful pictures in this link. These pictures give you some insight into how CNN perceive images.

4, Problems of DCL and CNN, and needs for RNN

Taking an example of RNN task should be helpful for this topic. Probably machine translation is the most famous application of RNN, and it is also a good example of showing why DCL and CNN are not proper for some tasks. Its algorithms is out of the scope of this article series, but it would give you a good insight of some features of RNN. I prepared three sentences in German, English, and Japanese, which have the same meaning. Assume that each sentence is divided into some parts as shown below and that each vector corresponds to each part. In machine translation we want to convert a set of the vectors into another set of vectors.

Then let’s see why DCL and CNN are not proper for such task.

  • The input size is fixed: In case of the dog/cat classifier I have mentioned, even though the sizes of the input images varies, they were first molded into (3, 150, 150) tensors. But in machine translation, usually the length of the input is supposed to be flexible.
  • The order of inputs does not mater: In case of the dog/cat classifier the last section, even if the input is “cat,” “cat,” “dog” or “dog,” “cat,” “cat” there’s no difference. And in case of DCL, the network is symmetric, so even if you shuffle inputs, as long as you shuffle all of the input data in the same way, the DCL give out the same outcome . And if you have learned at least one foreign language, it is easy to imagine that the orders of vectors in sequence data matter in machine translation.

*It is said English language has phrase structure grammar, on the other hand Japanese language has dependency grammar. In English, the orders of words are important, but in Japanese as long as the particles and conjugations are correct, the orders of words are very flexible. In my impression, German grammar is between them. As long as you put the verb at the second position and the cases of the words are correct, the orders are also relatively flexible.

5, Sequence Data

We can say DCL and CNN are not useful when you want to process sequence data. Sequence data are a type of data which are lists of vectors. And importantly, the orders of the vectors matter. The number of vectors in sequence data is usually called time steps. A simple example of sequence data is meteorological data measured at a spot every ten minutes, for instance temperature, air pressure, wind velocity, humidity. In this case the data is recorded as 4-dimensional vector every ten minutes.

But this “time step” does not necessarily mean “time.” In case of natural language processing (including machine translation), which you I mentioned in the last section, the numberings of each vector denoting each part of sentences are “time steps.”

And RNNs are mappings from a sequence data to another sequence data.

*At least I found a paper on the RNN’s capability of universal approximation on many-to-one RNN task. But I have not found any papers on universal approximation of many-to-many RNN tasks. Please let me know if you find any clue on whether such approximation is possible. I am desperate to know that. 

6, Types of RNN Tasks

RNN tasks can be classified into some types depending on the lengths of input/output sequences (the “length” means the times steps of input/output sequence data).

If you want to predict the temperature in 24 hours, based on several time series data points in the last 96 hours, the task is many-to-one. If you sample data every ten minutes, the input size is 96*6=574 (the input data is a list of 574 vectors), and the output size is 1 (which is a value of temperature). Another example of many-to-one task is sentiment classification. If you want to judge whether a post on SNS is positive or negative, the input size is very flexible (the length of the post varies.) But the output size is one, which is (1, 0) or (0, 1), which denotes (positive, negative).

*The charts in this section are simplified model of RNN used for each task. Please keep it in mind that they are not 100% correct, but I tried to make them as exact as possible compared to those in other study materials.

Music/text generation can be one-to-many tasks. If you give the first sound/word you can generate a phrase.

Next, let’s look at many-to-many tasks. Machine translation and voice recognition are likely to be major examples of many-to-many tasks, but here name entity recognition seems to be a proper choice. Name entity recognition is task of finding proper noun in a sentence . For example if you got two sentences “He said, ‘Teddy bears on sale!’ ” and ‘He said, “Teddy Roosevelt was a great president!” ‘ judging whether the “Teddy” is a proper noun or a normal noun is name entity recognition.

Machine translation and voice recognition, which are more popular, are also many-to-many tasks, but they use more sophisticated models. In case of machine translation, the inputs are sentences in the original language, and the outputs are sentences in another language. When it comes to voice recognition, the input is data of air pressure at several time steps, and the output is the recognized word or sentence. Again, these are out of the scope of this article but I would like to introduce the models briefly.

Machine translation uses a type of RNN named sequence-to-sequence model (which is often called seq2seq model). This model is also very important for other natural language processes tasks in general, such as text summarization. A seq2seq model is divided into the encoder part and the decoder part. The encoder gives out a hidden state vector and it used as the input of the decoder part. And decoder part generates texts, using the output of the last time step as the input of next time step.

Voice recognition is also a famous application of RNN, but it also needs a special type of RNN.

*To be honest, I don’t know what is the state-of-the-art voice recognition algorithm. The example in this article is a combination of RNN and a collapsing function made using Connectionist Temporal Classification (CTC). In this model, the output of RNN is much longer than the recorded words or sentences, so a collapsing function reduces the output into next output with normal length.

You might have noticed that RNNs in the charts above are connected in both directions. Depending on the RNN tasks you need such bidirectional RNNs.  I think it is also easy to imagine that such networks are necessary. Again, machine translation is a good example.

And interestingly, image captioning, which enables a computer to describe a picture, is one-to-many-task. As the output is a sentence, it is easy to imagine that the output is “many.” If it is a one-to-many task, the input is supposed to be a vector.

Where does the input come from? I told you that I was obsessed with the beauty of the last vector of the feature extraction part of CNN. Surprisingly the the “beautiful” vector, which I call a “semantic vector” is the input of image captioning task (after some transformations, depending on the network models).

I think this articles includes major things you need to know as prerequisites when you want to understand RNN at more mathematical level. In the next article, I would like to explain the structure of a simple RNN, and how it forward propagate.

* I make study materials on machine learning, sponsored by DATANOMIQ. I do my best to make my content as straightforward but as precise as possible. I include all of my reference sources. If you notice any mistakes in my materials, please let me know (email: yasuto.tamura@datanomiq.de). And if you have any advice for making my materials more understandable to learners, I would appreciate hearing it.

As Businesses Struggle With ML, Automation Offers a Solution

In recent years, machine learning technology and the business solutions it enables has developed into a big business in and of itself. According to the industry analysts at IDC, spending on ML and AI technology is set to grow to almost $98 billion per year by 2023. In practical terms, that figure represents a business environment where ML technology has become a key priority for companies of every kind.

That doesn’t mean that the path to adopting ML technology is easy for businesses. Far from it. In fact, survey data seems to indicate that businesses are still struggling to get their machine learning efforts up and running. According to one such survey, it currently takes the average business as many as 90 days to deploy a single machine learning model. For 20% of businesses, that number is even higher.

From the data, it seems clear that something is missing in the methodologies that most companies rely on to make meaningful use of machine learning in their business workflows. A closer look at the situation reveals that the vast majority of data workers (analysts, data scientists, etc.) spend an inordinate amount of time on infrastructure work – and not on creating and refining machine learning models.

Streamlining the ML Adoption Process

To fix that problem, businesses need to turn to another growing area of technology: automation. By leveraging the latest in automation technology, it’s now possible to build an automated machine learning pipeline (AutoML pipeline) that cuts down on the repetitive tasks that slow down ML deployments and lets data workers get back to the work they were hired to do. With the right customized solution in place, a business’s ML team can:

  • Reduce the time spent on data collection, cleaning, and ingestion
  • Minimize human errors in the development of ML models
  • Decentralize the ML development process to create an ML-as-a-service model with increased accessibility for all business stakeholders

In short, an AutoML pipeline turns the high-effort functions of the ML development process into quick, self-adjusting steps handled exclusively by machines. In some use cases, an AutoML pipeline can even allow non-technical stakeholders to self-create ML solutions tailored to specific business use cases with no expert help required. In that way, it can cut ML costs, shorten deployment time, and allow data scientists to focus on tackling more complex modelling work to develop custom ML solutions that are still outside the scope of available automation techniques.

The Parts of an AutoML Pipeline

Although the frameworks and tools used to create an AutoML pipeline can vary, they all contain elements that conform to the following areas:

  • Data Preprocessing – Taking available business data from a variety of sources, cleaning it, standardizing it, and conducting missing value imputation
  • Feature Engineering – Identifying features in the raw data set to create hypotheses for the model to base predictions on
  • Model Selection – Choosing the right ML approach or hyperparameters to produce the desired predictions
  • Tuning Hyperparameters – Determining which hyperparameters help the model achieve optimal performance

As anyone familiar with ML development can tell you, the steps in the above process tend to represent the majority of the labour and time-intensive work that goes into creating a model that’s ready for real-world business use. It is also in those steps where the lion’s share of business ML budgets get consumed, and where most of the typical delays occur.

The Limitations and Considerations for Using AutoML

Given the scope of the work that can now become part of an AutoML pipeline, it’s tempting to imagine it as a panacea – something that will allow a business to reduce its reliance on data scientists going forward. Right now, though, the technology can’t do that. At this stage, AutoML technology is still best used as a tool to augment the productivity of business data teams, not to supplant them altogether.

To that end, there are some considerations that businesses using AutoML will need to keep in mind to make sure they get reliable, repeatable, and value-generating results, including:

  • Transparency – Businesses must establish proper vetting procedures to make sure they understand the models created by their AutoML pipeline, so they can explain why it’s making the choices or predictions it’s making. In some industries, such as in medicine or finance, this could even fall under relevant regulatory requirements.
  • Extensibility – Making sure the AutoML framework may be expanded and modified to suit changing business needs or to tackle new challenges as they arise.
  • Monitoring and Maintenance – Since today’s AutoML technology isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it proposition, it’s important to establish processes for the monitoring and maintenance of the deployment so it can continue to produce useful and reliable ML models.

The Bottom Line

As it stands today, the convergence of automation and machine learning holds the promise of delivering ML models at scale for businesses, which would greatly speed up the adoption of the technology and lower barriers to entry for those who have yet to embrace it. On the whole, that’s great news both for the businesses that will benefit from increased access to ML technology, as well as for the legions of data professionals tasked with making it all work.

It’s important to note, of course, that complete end-to-end ML automation with no human intervention is still a long way off. While businesses should absolutely explore building an automated machine learning pipeline to speed up development time in their data operations, they shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that they still need plenty of high-skilled data scientists and analysts on their teams. It’s those specialists that can make appropriate and productive use of the technology. Without them, an AutoML pipeline would accomplish little more than telling the business what it wants to hear.

The good news is that the AutoML tools that exist right now are sufficient to alleviate many of the real-world problems businesses face in their road to ML adoption. As they become more commonplace, there’s little doubt that the lead time to deploy machine learning models is going to shrink correspondingly – and that businesses will enjoy higher ROI and enhanced outcomes as a result.

Data Analytics & Artificial Intelligence Trends in 2020

Artificial intelligence has infiltrated all aspects of our lives and brought significant improvements.

Although the first thing that comes to most people’s minds when they think about AI are humanoid robots or intelligent machines from sci-fi flicks, this technology has had the most impressive advancements in the field of data science.

Big data analytics is what has already transformed the way we do business as it provides an unprecedented insight into a vast amount of unstructured, semi-structured, and structured data by analyzing, processing, and interpreting it.

Data and AI specialists and researchers are likely to have a field day in 2020, so here are some of the most important trends in this industry.

1. Predictive Analytics

As its name suggests, this trend will be all about using gargantuan data sets in order to predict outcomes and results.

This practice is slated to become one of the biggest trends in 2020 because it will help businesses improve their processes tremendously. It will find its place in optimizing customer support, pricing, supply chain, recruitment, and retail sales, to name just a few.

For example, Amazon has already been leveraging predictive analytics for its dynamic pricing model. Namely, the online retail giant uses this technology to analyze the demand for a particular product, competitors’ prices, and a number of other parameters in order to adjust its price.

According to stats, Amazon changes prices 2.5 million times a day so that a particular product’s cost fluctuates and changes every 10 minutes, which requires an extremely predictive analytics algorithm.

2. Improved Cybersecurity

In a world of advanced technologies where IoT and remotely controlled devices having top-notch protection is of critical importance.

Numerous businesses and individuals have fallen victim to ruthless criminals who can steal sensitive data or wipe out entire bank accounts. Even some big and powerful companies suffered huge financial and reputation blows due to cyber attacks they were subjected to.

This kind of crime is particularly harsh for small and medium businesses. Stats say that 60% of SMBs are forced to close down after being hit by such an attack.

AI again takes advantage of its immense potential for analyzing and processing data from different sources quickly and accurately. That’s why it’s capable of assisting cybersecurity specialists in predicting and preventing attacks.

In case that an attack emerges, the response time is significantly shorter, so that the worst-case scenario can be avoided.

When we’re talking about avoiding security risks, AI can improve enterprise risk management, too, by providing guidance and assisting risk management professionals.

3. Digital Workers

In 2020, an army of digital workers will transform the traditional workspace and take productivity to a whole new level.

Virtual assistants and chatbots are some examples of already existing digital workers, but it will be even more of them. According to research, this trend is one the rise, as it’s expected that AI software and robots will increase by 50% by 2022.

Robots will take over even some small tasks in the office. The point is to streamline the entire business process, and that can be achieved by training robots to perform small and simple tasks like human employees. The only difference will be that digital workers will do that faster and without any mistakes.

4. Hybrid Workforce

Many people worry that AI and automation will steal their jobs and render them unemployed.

Even the stats are bleak – AI will eliminate 1.8 million jobs. But, on the other hand, it will create 2.3 million new jobs.

So, our future is actually AI and humans working together, and that’s what will become the business normalcy in 2020.

Robotic process automation and different office digital workers will be in charge of tedious and repetitive tasks, while more sophisticated issues that require critical thinking and creativity will be human workers’ responsibility.

One of the most important things about creating this hybrid workforce is for businesses to openly discuss it with their employees and explain how these new technologies will be used. A regular workforce has to know that they will be working alongside machines whose job will be to speed up the processes and cut costs.

5. Process Intelligence

This AI trend will allow businesses to gain insight into their processes by using all the information contained in their system and creating an overall, real-time, and accurate visual model of all the processes.

What’s great about it is that it’s possible to see these processes from different perspectives – across departments, functions, staff, and locations.

With such a visual model, it’s possible to properly analyze these processes, identify potential bottlenecks, and eliminate them before they even begin to emerge.

Besides, as this is AI and data analytics at their best, this technology will also facilitate decision-making by predicting the future results of tech investments.

Needless to say, Process Intelligence will become an enterprise standard very soon, thanks to its ability to provide a better understanding and effective management of end-to-end processes.

As you can see, in 2020, these two advanced technologies will continue to evolve and transform the business landscape and change it for the better.

Six properties of modern Business Intelligence

Regardless of the industry in which you operate, you need information systems that evaluate your business data in order to provide you with a basis for decision-making. These systems are commonly referred to as so-called business intelligence (BI). In fact, most BI systems suffer from deficiencies that can be eliminated. In addition, modern BI can partially automate decisions and enable comprehensive analyzes with a high degree of flexibility in use.


Read this article in German:
“Sechs Eigenschaften einer modernen Business Intelligence“


Let us discuss the six characteristics that distinguish modern business intelligence, which mean taking technical tricks into account in detail, but always in the context of a great vision for your own company BI:

1. Uniform database of high quality

Every managing director certainly knows the situation that his managers do not agree on how many costs and revenues actually arise in detail and what the margins per category look like. And if they do, this information is often only available months too late.

Every company has to make hundreds or even thousands of decisions at the operational level every day, which can be made much more well-founded if there is good information and thus increase sales and save costs. However, there are many source systems from the company’s internal IT system landscape as well as other external data sources. The gathering and consolidation of information often takes up entire groups of employees and offers plenty of room for human error.

A system that provides at least the most relevant data for business management at the right time and in good quality in a trusted data zone as a single source of truth (SPOT). SPOT is the core of modern business intelligence.

In addition, other data on BI may also be made available which can be useful for qualified analysts and data scientists. For all decision-makers, the particularly trustworthy zone is the one through which all decision-makers across the company can synchronize.

2. Flexible use by different stakeholders

Even if all employees across the company should be able to access central, trustworthy data, with a clever architecture this does not exclude that each department receives its own views of this data. Many BI systems fail due to company-wide inacceptance because certain departments or technically defined employee groups are largely excluded from BI.

Modern BI systems enable views and the necessary data integration for all stakeholders in the company who rely on information and benefit equally from the SPOT approach.

3. Efficient ways to expand (time to market)

The core users of a BI system are particularly dissatisfied when the expansion or partial redesign of the information system requires too much of patience. Historically grown, incorrectly designed and not particularly adaptable BI systems often employ a whole team of IT staff and tickets with requests for change requests.

Good BI is a service for stakeholders with a short time to market. The correct design, selection of software and the implementation of data flows / models ensures significantly shorter development and implementation times for improvements and new features.

Furthermore, it is not only the technology that is decisive, but also the choice of organizational form, including the design of roles and responsibilities – from the technical system connection to data preparation, pre-analysis and support for the end users.

4. Integrated skills for Data Science and AI

Business intelligence and data science are often viewed and managed separately from each other. Firstly, because data scientists are often unmotivated to work with – from their point of view – boring data models and prepared data. On the other hand, because BI is usually already established as a traditional system in the company, despite the many problems that BI still has today.

Data science, often referred to as advanced analytics, deals with deep immersion in data using exploratory statistics and methods of data mining (unsupervised machine learning) as well as predictive analytics (supervised machine learning). Deep learning is a sub-area of ​​machine learning and is used for data mining or predictive analytics. Machine learning is a sub-area of ​​artificial intelligence (AI).

In the future, BI and data science or AI will continue to grow together, because at the latest after going live, the prediction models flow back into business intelligence. BI will probably develop into ABI (Artificial Business Intelligence). However, many companies are already using data mining and predictive analytics in the company, using uniform or different platforms with or without BI integration.

Modern BI systems also offer data scientists a platform to access high-quality and more granular raw data.

5. Sufficiently high performance

Most readers of these six points will probably have had experience with slow BI before. It takes several minutes to load a daily report to be used in many classic BI systems. If loading a dashboard can be combined with a little coffee break, it may still be acceptable for certain reports from time to time. At the latest, however, with frequent use, long loading times and unreliable reports are no longer acceptable.

One reason for poor performance is the hardware, which can be almost linearly scaled to higher data volumes and more analysis complexity using cloud systems. The use of cloud also enables the modular separation of storage and computing power from data and applications and is therefore generally recommended, but not necessarily the right choice for all companies.

In fact, performance is not only dependent on the hardware, the right choice of software and the right choice of design for data models and data flows also play a crucial role. Because while hardware can be changed or upgraded relatively easily, changing the architecture is associated with much more effort and BI competence. Unsuitable data models or data flows will certainly bring the latest hardware to its knees in its maximum configuration.

6. Cost-effective use and conclusion

Professional cloud systems that can be used for BI systems offer total cost calculators, such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud. With these computers – with instruction from an experienced BI expert – not only can costs for the use of hardware be estimated, but ideas for cost optimization can also be calculated. Nevertheless, the cloud is still not the right solution for every company and classic calculations for on-premise solutions are necessary.

Incidentally, cost efficiency can also be increased with a good selection of the right software. Because proprietary solutions are tied to different license models and can only be compared using application scenarios. Apart from that, there are also good open source solutions that can be used largely free of charge and can be used for many applications without compromises.

However, it is wrong to assess the cost of a BI only according to its hardware and software costs. A significant part of cost efficiency is complementary to the aspects for the performance of the BI system, because suboptimal architectures work wastefully and require more expensive hardware than neatly coordinated architectures. The production of the central data supply in adequate quality can save many unnecessary processes of data preparation and many flexible analysis options also make redundant systems unnecessary and lead to indirect savings.

In any case, a BI for companies with many operational processes is always cheaper than no BI. However, if you take a closer look with BI expertise, cost efficiency is often possible.