How do machine learning professionals make data readable and accessible? What techniques do they use to dissect raw information?

One of these techniques is clustering. Data clustering is the process of grouping items in a data set together. These items are related, allowing key stakeholders to make critical strategic decisions using the insights.

After preparing data, which is what specialists do 50%-80% of the time, clustering takes center stage. It forms structures other members of the company can understand more easily, even if they lack advanced technical knowledge.

Clustering in machine learning involves many techniques to help accomplish this goal. Here is a detailed overview of those techniques.

Clustering Techniques

Data science is an ever-changing field with lots of variables and fluctuations. However, one thing’s for sure – whether you want to practice clustering in data mining or clustering in machine learning, you can use a wide array of tools to automate your efforts.

Partitioning Methods

The first groups of techniques are the so-called partitioning methods. There are three main sub-types of this model.

K-Means Clustering

K-means clustering is an effective yet straightforward clustering system. To execute this technique, you need to assign clusters in your data sets. From there, define your number K, which tells the program how many centroids (“coordinates” representing the center of your clusters) you need. The machine then recognizes your K and categorizes data points to nearby clusters.

You can look at K-means clustering like finding the center of a triangle. Zeroing in on the center lets you divide the triangle into several areas, allowing you to make additional calculations.

And the name K-means clustering is pretty self-explanatory. It refers to finding the median value of your clusters – centroids.

K-Medoids Clustering

K-means clustering is useful but is prone to so-called “outlier data.” This information is different from other data points and can merge with others. Data miners need a reliable way to deal with this issue.

Enter K-medoids clustering.

It’s similar to K-means clustering, but just like planes overcome gravity, so does K-medoids clustering overcome outliers. It utilizes “medoids” as the reference points – which contain maximum similarities with other data points in your cluster. As a result, no outliers interfere with relevant data points, making this one of the most dependable clustering techniques in data mining.

Fuzzy C-Means Clustering

Fuzzy C-means clustering is all about calculating the distance from the median point to individual data points. If a data point is near the cluster centroid, it’s relevant to the goal you want to accomplish with your data mining. The farther you go from this point, the farther you move the goalpost and decrease relevance.

Hierarchical Methods

Some forms of clustering in machine learning are like textbooks – similar topics are grouped in a chapter and are different from topics in other chapters. That’s precisely what hierarchical clustering aims to accomplish. You can the following methods to create data hierarchies.

Agglomerative Clustering

Agglomerative clustering is one of the simplest forms of hierarchical clustering. It divides your data set into several clusters, making sure data points are similar to other points in the same cluster. By grouping them, you can see the differences between individual clusters.

Before the execution, each data point is a full-fledged cluster. The technique helps you form more clusters, making this a bottom-up strategy.

Divisive Clustering

Divisive clustering lies on the other end of the hierarchical spectrum. Here, you start with just one cluster and create more as you move through your data set. This top-down approach produces as many clusters as necessary until you achieve the requested number of partitions.

Density-Based Methods

Birds of a feather flock together. That’s the basic premise of density-based methods. Data points that are close to each other form high-density clusters, indicating their cohesiveness. The two primary density-based methods of clustering in data mining are DBSCAN and OPTICS.

DBSCAN (Density-Based Spatial Clustering of Applications With Noise)

Related data groups are close to each other, forming high-density areas in your data sets. The DBSCAN method picks up on these areas and groups information accordingly.

OPTICS (Ordering Points to Identify the Clustering Structure)

The OPTICS technique is like DBSCAN, grouping data points according to their density. The only major difference is that OPTICS can identify varying densities in larger groups.

Grid-Based Methods

You can see grids on practically every corner. They can easily be found in your house or your car. They’re also prevalent in clustering.

STING (Statistical Information Grid)

The STING grid method divides a data point into rectangular grills. Afterward, you determine certain parameters for your cells to categorize information.

CLIQUE (Clustering in QUEst)

Agglomerative clustering isn’t the only bottom-up clustering method on our list. There’s also the CLIQUE technique. It detects clusters in your environment and combines them according to your parameters.

Model-Based Methods

Different clustering techniques have different assumptions. The assumption of model-based methods is that a model generates specific data points. Several such models are used here.

Gaussian Mixture Models (GMM)

The aim of Gaussian mixture models is to identify so-called Gaussian distributions. Each distribution is a cluster, and any information within a distribution is related.

Hidden Markov Models (HMM)

Most people use HMM to determine the probability of certain outcomes. Once they calculate the probability, they can figure out the distance between individual data points for clustering purposes.

Spectral Clustering

If you often deal with information organized in graphs, spectral clustering can be your best friend. It finds related groups of notes according to linked edges.

Comparison of Clustering Techniques

It’s hard to say that one algorithm is superior to another because each has a specific purpose. Nevertheless, some clustering techniques might be especially useful in particular contexts:

  • OPTICS beats DBSCAN when clustering data points with different densities.
  • K-means outperforms divisive clustering when you wish to reduce the distance between a data point and a cluster.
  • Spectral clustering is easier to implement than the STING and CLIQUE methods.

Cluster Analysis

You can’t put your feet up after clustering information. The next step is to analyze the groups to extract meaningful information.

Importance of Cluster Analysis in Data Mining

The importance of clustering in data mining can be compared to the importance of sunlight in tree growth. You can’t get valuable insights without analyzing your clusters. In turn, stakeholders wouldn’t be able to make critical decisions about improving their marketing efforts, target audience, and other key aspects.

Steps in Cluster Analysis

Just like the production of cars consists of many steps (e.g., assembling the engine, making the chassis, painting, etc.), cluster analysis is a multi-stage process:

Data Preprocessing

Noise and other issues plague raw information. Data preprocessing solves this issue by making data more understandable.

Feature Selection

You zero in on specific features of a cluster to identify those clusters more easily. Plus, feature selection allows you to store information in a smaller space.

Clustering Algorithm Selection

Choosing the right clustering algorithm is critical. You need to ensure your algorithm is compatible with the end result you wish to achieve. The best way to do so is to determine how you want to establish the relatedness of the information (e.g., determining median distances or densities).

Cluster Validation

In addition to making your data points easily digestible, you also need to verify whether your clustering process is legit. That’s where cluster validation comes in.

Cluster Validation Techniques

There are three main cluster validation techniques when performing clustering in machine learning:

Internal Validation

Internal validation evaluates your clustering based on internal information.

External Validation

External validation assesses a clustering process by referencing external data.

Relative Validation

You can vary your number of clusters or other parameters to evaluate your clustering. This procedure is known as relative validation.

Applications of Clustering in Data Mining

Clustering may sound a bit abstract, but it has numerous applications in data mining.

  • Customer Segmentation – This is the most obvious application of clustering. You can group customers according to different factors, like age and interests, for better targeting.
  • Anomaly Detection – Detecting anomalies or outliers is essential for many industries, such as healthcare.
  • Image Segmentation – You use data clustering if you want to recognize a certain object in an image.
  • Document Clustering – Organizing documents is effortless with document clustering.
  • Bioinformatics and Gene Expression Analysis – Grouping related genes together is relatively simple with data clustering.

Challenges and Future Directions

  • Scalability – One of the biggest challenges of data clustering is expected to be applying the process to larger datasets. Addressing this problem is essential in a world with ever-increasing amounts of information.
  • Handling High-Dimensional Data – Future systems may be able to cluster data with thousands of dimensions.
  • Dealing with Noise and Outliers – Specialists hope to enhance the ability of their clustering systems to reduce noise and lessen the influence of outliers.
  • Dynamic Data and Evolving Clusters – Updates can change entire clusters. Professionals will need to adapt to this environment to retain efficiency.

Elevate Your Data Mining Knowledge

There are a vast number of techniques for clustering in machine learning. From centroid-based solutions to density-focused approaches, you can take many directions when grouping data.

Mastering them is essential for any data miner, as they provide insights into crucial information. On top of that, the data science industry is expected to hit nearly $26 billion by 2026, which is why clustering will become even more prevalent.

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Il Sole 24 Ore: 100 thousand IT professionals missing
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
May 14, 2024 6 min read

Written on April 24th 2024

Source here: Il Sole 24 Ore (full article in Italian)

Open Institute of Technology: 100 thousand IT professionals missing

Eurostat data processed and disseminated by OPIT. Stem disciplines: the share of graduates in Italy between the ages of 20 and 29 is 18.3%, compared to the European 21.9%

Today, only 29% of young Italians between 25 and 34 have a degree. Not only that: compared to other European countries, the comparison is unequal given that the average in the Old Continent is 46%, bringing Italy to the penultimate place in this ranking, ahead only of Romania. The gap is evident even if the comparison is limited to STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) where the share of graduates in Italy between the ages of 20 and 29 is 18.3%, compared to the European 21.9%, with peaks of virtuosity which in the case of France that reaches 29.2%. Added to this is the continuing problem of the mismatch between job supply and demand, so much so that 62.8% of companies struggle to find professionals in the technological and IT fields.

The data

The Eurostat data was processed and disseminated by OPIT – Open Institute of Technology. an academic institution accredited at European level, active in the university level education market with online Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in the technological and digital fields. We are therefore witnessing a phenomenon with worrying implications on the future of the job market in Italy and on the potential loss of competitiveness of our companies at a global level, especially if inserted in a context in which the macroeconomic scenario in the coming years will undergo a profound discontinuity linked to the arrival of “exponential” technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and robotics, but also to the growing threats related to cybersecurity.

Requirements and updates

According to European House Ambrosetti, over 2,000,000 professionals will have to update their skills in the Digital and IT area by 2026, also to take advantage of the current 100,000 vacant IT positions, as estimated by Frank Recruitment Group. But not only that: the Italian context, which is unfavorable for providing the job market with graduates and skills, also has its roots in the chronic birth rate that characterizes our country: according to ISTAT data, in recent years the number of newborns has fallen by 28%, bringing Italy’s birth rate to 1.24, among the lowest in Europe, where the average is 1.46.

Profumo: “Structural deficiency”

“The chronic problem of the absence of IT professionals is structural and of a dual nature: on one hand the number of newborns – therefore, potential “professionals of the future” – is constantly decreasing; on the other hand, the percentage of young people who acquires degrees are firmly among the lowest in Europe”, declared Francesco Profumo, former Minister of Education and rector of OPIT – Open Institute of Technology. “The reasons are varied: from the cost of education (especially if undertaken off-site), to a university offering that is poorly aligned with changes in society, to a lack of awareness and orientation towards STEM subjects, which guarantee the highest employment rates. Change necessarily involves strong investments in the university system (and, in general, in the education system) at the level of the country, starting from the awareness that a functioning education system is the main driver of growth and development in the medium to long term. It is a debated and discussed topic on which, however, a clear and ambitious position is never taken.”

Stagnant context and educational offer

In this stagnant context, the educational offer that comes from online universities increasingly meets the needs of flexibility, quality and cost of recently graduated students, university students looking for specialization and workers interested in updating themselves with innovative skills. According to data from the Ministry of University and Research, enrollments in accredited online universities in Italy have grown by over 141 thousand units in ten years (since 2011), equal to 293.9%. Added to these are the academic institutions accredited at European level, such as OPIT, whose educational offering is overall capable of opening the doors to hundreds of thousands of students, with affordable costs and extremely innovative and updated degree paths.

Analyzing the figures

An analysis of Eurostat statistics relating to the year 2021 highlights that 27% of Europeans aged between 16 and 74 have attended an entirely digital course. The highest share is recorded in Ireland (46%), Finland and Sweden (45%) and the Netherlands (44%). The lowest in Romania (10%), Bulgaria (12%) and Croatia (18%). Italy is at 20%. “With OPIT” – adds Riccardo Ocleppo, founder and director – “we have created a new model of online academic institution, oriented towards new technologies, with innovative programs, a strong practical focus, and an international approach, with professors and students from 38 countries around the world, and teaching in English. We intend to train Italian students not only on current and updated skills, but to prepare them for an increasingly dynamic and global job market. Our young people must be able to face the challenges of the future like those who study at Stanford or Oxford: with solid skills, but also with relational and attitudinal skills that lead them to create global companies and startups or work in multinationals like their international colleagues. The increasing online teaching offer, if well structured and with quality, represents an incredible form of democratization of education, making it accessible at low costs and with methods that adapt to the flexibility needs of many working students.”

Point of reference

With two degrees already starting in September 2023 – a three-year degree (BSc) in Modern Computer Science and a specialization (MSc) in Applied Data Science & AI – and 4 starting in September 2024: a three-year degree (BSc) in Digital Business, and the specializations (MSc) in Enterprise Cybersecurity, Applied Digital Business and Responsible Artificial Intelligence (AI), OPIT is an academic institution of reference for those who intend to respond to the demands of a job market increasingly oriented towards the field of artificial intelligence. Added to this are a high-profile international teaching staff and an exclusively online educational offer focused on the technological and digital fields.

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Times of India: The 600,000 IT job shortage in India and how to solve it
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
May 2, 2024 3 min read

Written on April 25th 2024

Source here: Times of India 

The job market has never been a straightforward path. Ask anyone who has ever looked for a job, certainly within the last decade, and they can tell you as much. But with the rapid development of AI and machine learning, concerns are growing for people about their career options, with a report from Randstad finding that 7 in 10 people in India are concerned about their job being eliminated by AI.

 Employers have their own share of concerns. According to The World Economic Forum, 97 million new AI-related jobs will be created by 2025 and the share of jobs requiring AI skills will increase by 58%. The IT industry in India is experiencing a tremendous surge in demand for skilled professionals on disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, cybersecurity and, according to Nasscom, this is leading to a shortage of 600,000 profiles.

 So how do we fill those gaps? Can we democratize access to top-tier higher education in technology?

These are the questions that Riccardo Ocleppo, the engineer who founded a hugely successful ed-tech platform connecting international students with global Universities, Docsity, asked himself for years. Until he took action and launched the Open Institute of Technology (OPIT), together with the Former Minister of Education of Italy, Prof. Francesco Profumo, to help people take control of their future careers.

OPIT offers BSc and MSc degrees in Computer Science, AI, Data Science, Cybersecurity, and Digital Business, attracting students from over 38 countries worldwide. Through innovative learning experiences and affordable tuition fees starting at €4,050 per year, OPIT empowers students to pursue their educational goals without the financial and personal burden of relocating.

The curriculum, delivered through a mix of live and pre-recorded lectures, equips students with the latest technology skills, as well as business and strategic acumen necessary for careers in their chosen fields. Moreover, OPIT’s EU-accredited degrees enable graduates to pursue employment opportunities in Europe, with recognition by WES facilitating transferability to the US and Canada.

OPIT’s commitment to student success extends beyond academics, with a full-fledged career services department led by Mike McCulloch. Remote students benefit from OPIT’s “digital campus,” fostering connections through vibrant discussion forums, online events, and networking opportunities with leading experts and professors.

Faculty at OPIT, hailing from prestigious institutions and industry giants like Amazon and Microsoft, bring a wealth of academic and practical experience to the table. With a hands-on, practical teaching approach, OPIT prepares students for the dynamic challenges of the modern job market.

In conclusion, OPIT stands as a beacon of hope for individuals seeking to future-proof their careers in technology. By democratizing access to high-quality education and fostering a global learning community, OPIT empowers students to seize control of their futures and thrive in the ever-evolving tech landscape.

Read the article