Introduction to Cluster
Introduction: Clustering is the process of grouping the data into classes or clusters, so that objects within a cluster have high similarity in comparison to one another but are very dissimilar to objects in other clusters. Dissimilarities are assessed based on the attribute values describing the objects. Often, distance measures are used. Clustering has its roots in many areas, including data mining, statistics, biology, and machine learning.
- The process of grouping a set of physical or abstract objects into classes of similar objects is called clustering. A cluster is a collection of data objects that are similar to one another within the same cluster and are dissimilar to the objects in other clusters. A cluster of data objects can be treated collectively as one group and so may be considered as a form of data compression. Although classification is an effective means for distinguishing groups or classes of objects, it requires the often costly collection and labeling of a large set of training tuples or patterns, which the classifier uses to model each group. It is often more desirable to proceed in the reverse direction: First partition the set of data into groups based on data similarity (e.g., using clustering), and then assign labels to the relatively small number of groups. Additional advantages of such a clustering-based process are that it is adaptable to changes and helps single out useful features that distinguish different groups.
- Cluster analysis is an important human activity. Early in childhood, we learn how to distinguish between cats and dogs, or between animals and plants, by continuously improving subconscious clustering schemes. By automated clustering, we can identify dense and sparse regions in object space and, therefore, discover overall distribution patterns and interesting correlations among data attributes. Cluster analysis has been widely used in numerous applications, including market research, pattern recognition, data analysis, and image processing. In business, clustering can help marketers discover distinct groups in their customer bases and characterize customer groups based on purchasing patterns. In biology, it can be used to derive plant and animal taxonomies, categorize genes with similar functionality, and gain insight into structures inherent in populations. Clustering may also help in the identification of areas of similar land use in an earth observation database and in the identification of groups of houses in a city according to house type, value, and geographic location, as well as the identification of groups of automobile insurance policy holders with a high average claim cost. It can also be used to help classify documents on the Web for information discovery.
- Clustering is also called data segmentation in some applications because clustering partitions large data sets into groups according to their similarity. Clustering can also be used for outlier detection, where outliers (values that are “far away” from any cluster) may be more interesting than common cases. Applications of outlier detection include the detection of credit card fraud and the monitoring of criminal activities in electronic commerce. For example, exceptional cases in credit card transactions, such as very expensive and frequent purchases, may be of interest as possible fraudulent activity. As a data mining function, cluster analysis can be used as a stand-alone tool to gain insight into the distribution of data, to observe the characteristics of each cluster, and to focus on a particular set of clusters for further analysis. Alternatively, it may serve as a preprocessing step for other algorithms, such as characterization, attribute subset selection, and classification, which would then operate on the detected clusters and the selected attributes or features.
- Data clustering is under vigorous development. Contributing areas of research include data mining, statistics, machine learning, spatial database technology, biology, and marketing. Owing to the huge amounts of data collected in databases, cluster analysis has recently become a highly active topic in data mining research. As a branch of statistics, cluster analysis has been extensively studied for many years, focusing mainly on distance-based cluster analysis. Cluster analysis tools based on k-means, k-medoids, and several other methods have also been built into many statistical analysis software packages or systems, such as S-Plus, SPSS, and SAS. In machine learning, clustering is an example of unsupervised learning. Unlike classification, clustering and unsupervised learning do not rely on predefined classes and class-labeled training examples. For this reason, clustering is a form of learning by observation, rather than learning by examples. In data mining, efforts have focused on finding methods for efficient and effective cluster analysis in large databases. Active themes of research focus on the scalability of clustering methods, the effectiveness of methods for clustering complex shapes and types of data, high-dimensional clustering techniques, and methods for clustering mixed numerical and categorical data in large databases.