5 Types of Clustering Algorithm [SCENARIO] You Must Know as a Data Scientist

5 Types of Clustering Algorithm [SCENARIO] You Must Know as a Data Scientist

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Atul Harsha
Senior Manager Content
Updated on Jan 20, 2023 18:39 IST

As a data scientist, it’s important to know five types of clustering algorithms: K-Means, Hierarchical, DBSCAN, EM, and Spectral Clustering. These algorithms partition and group data based on different characteristics and can be used for various data analysis tasks.

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Clustering is a technique used in data analysis and machine learning to group similar data points together into “clusters.” The goal of clustering is to find patterns in data and group similar data points together, while separating dissimilar data points into different groups.

For example, let’s say you have a customer dataset containing their age, income, and location. You could use clustering to group together customers who are similar in terms of age and income, and separate out customers who are very different in terms of these characteristics. This might be useful for a business that wants to target marketing campaigns to specific customer segments.

There are many different algorithms that can be used for clustering, such as k-means clustering and hierarchical clustering. The specific algorithm used will depend on the nature of the data and the goals of the analysis.

Overall, clustering is a useful tool for discovering patterns in data and identifying groups of similar data points. It can be used in a variety of applications, including market segmentation, anomaly detection, and image classification.

What do Data Scientist use Clustering Algorithm for?

As a data scientist, you might use clustering for a variety of tasks, such as:

  1. Customer Segmentation: Segmenting customers or other data points into different groups based on shared characteristics. For example, you might use clustering to identify different types of customers based on their demographics, purchasing habits, or other data.
    • For example: Let’s say you have a dataset containing customer information, including their age, income, location, and purchasing habits. You might use clustering to group together customers who are similar in terms of these characteristics. For example, you might find that there are three main clusters of customers: young, low-income customers who tend to purchase budget products; Middle-aged, middle-income customers who tend to purchase mid-range products; and older, high-income customers who tend to purchase premium products.
  2. Anomaly detection: Clustering can be used to identify unusual data points that do not fit into any of the established clusters. These data points might represent unusual events or anomalies that warrant further investigation.
    • For example, Suppose you have a dataset containing information about website traffic, including the number of visitors, the pages they visit, and the length of their sessions. You might use clustering to identify unusual data points that do not fit into any of the established clusters. For example, you might find that one data point represents a sudden spike in traffic from a particular location, which could indicate a DDoS attack or other unusual event.
  3. Dimensionality reduction: Clustering can be used to reduce the number of features in a dataset by grouping together similar features into clusters. This can be useful for visualizing data or building machine learning models.
    • For example, Let’s say you have a dataset containing information about a group of products, including their price, size, weight, and color. You might use clustering to group together similar features into clusters. For example, you might find that there are two main clusters of features: one containing size and weight, and another containing price and color. This could be useful for visualizing the data or building a machine learning model that focuses on these main clusters of features.
  4. Preprocessing data: Clustering can be used as a preprocessing step before building a machine learning model. For example, you might use clustering to group together similar data points, and then build a separate model for each cluster.
    • For example, Suppose you have a dataset containing information about a group of patients, including their age, medical history, and current symptoms. You might use clustering to group together similar patients, and then build a separate machine learning model for each cluster. For example, you might find that there are two main clusters of patients: one with younger, healthy patients, and another with older, sicker patients. Building separate models for these two clusters could lead to more accurate predictions for each group.

Clustering Algorithm You Must Know as a Data Scientist

Clustering is a useful tool for data scientists to discover patterns in data and identify groups of similar data points. It can be used in a variety of applications and can be a valuable part of the data analysis process. Here’s a list of 5 Clustering Algorithm You Must Know as a Data Scientist.

1. K means Clustering

K-means is a widely-used clustering algorithm that divides a dataset into a specified number (k) of clusters. It is an iterative algorithm that assigns each data point to the nearest cluster center, then adjusts the cluster centers to be the mean of the points in the cluster.

K means Clustering – Scenario Based

Here is a scenario in which you might use k-means clustering:

Imagine that you are a data scientist working for a retail company and you have been asked to segment the company’s customer base into distinct groups in order to tailor marketing campaigns and personalized recommendations. You have a large dataset of customer information, including demographic data (age, gender, income, etc.), purchase history, and web browsing activity. You want to use this data to identify distinct groups of customers with similar characteristics, so that you can better understand their behavior and preferences.

To do this, you can use k-means clustering to partition the customers into k clusters, where each cluster represents a group of customers with similar characteristics. You can then analyze the characteristics of each cluster to gain insights into the different types of customers in your dataset. For example, you might find that one cluster consists primarily of younger, high-income individuals who are interested in fashion, while another cluster consists of older, lower-income individuals who are more interested in home goods. This information can help the company target its marketing campaigns and recommendations more effectively.

How would you use K means in this scenario?

To use k-means clustering in the scenario described above, you would follow these steps:

  1. Preprocess the data: Before using k-means clustering, you should clean and scale the data and impute any missing values. This ensures that the algorithm is able to identify meaningful patterns in the data.
  2. Select the number of clusters: You will need to decide on the number of clusters (k) that you want to create. There are various methods for determining the optimal value of k, such as the elbow method or the silhouette method.
  3. Initialize the centroids: Once you have chosen the value of k, you will need to initialize the centroids for each cluster. The centroids are the points that represent the center of each cluster. You can initialize the centroids randomly or using some other method, such as selecting k points from the dataset that are furthest apart from each other.
  4. Assign each point to a cluster: Next, you will need to assign each data point to one of the k clusters based on its distance to the centroids. You can use a distance measure such as Euclidean distance to calculate the distance between each point and the centroids.
  5. Update the centroids: After assigning the points to clusters, you will need to update the centroids to reflect the new cluster assignments. To do this, you can calculate the mean of all the points in each cluster and use the mean values as the new centroids.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5: You will need to repeat steps 4 and 5 until the centroids stop changing or the algorithm converges, meaning that the clusters are no longer changing. Once the algorithm has converged, you can use the final clusters to analyze and understand the different groups of customers in your dataset.

The final clusters are determined by the cluster centers that are obtained at the end of the iteration process.

2. Hierarchical Clustering

Hierarchical clustering is a method of clustering that involves creating a hierarchy of clusters. There are two main types of hierarchical clustering: agglomerative (bottom-up) and divisive (top-down).

In agglomerative hierarchical clustering, each data point is initially treated as its own cluster. The algorithm then iteratively merges the closest pairs of clusters until all points are in the same cluster. The distance between clusters can be measured using a variety of distance metrics, such as Euclidean distance or cosine similarity.

The result of agglomerative hierarchical clustering is a tree-like diagram called a dendrogram, which shows the hierarchy of clusters. To determine the number of clusters, you can cut the dendrogram at a certain height, which will determine the clusters at that level of the hierarchy.

Divisive hierarchical clustering is the opposite of agglomerative hierarchical clustering. It starts with all data points in the same cluster and iteratively splits the cluster into smaller clusters until each data point is in its own cluster. Divisive hierarchical clustering is less commonly used than agglomerative hierarchical clustering.

Hierarchical Clustering – Scenario Based

Here is a scenario in which you might use hierarchical clustering:

Imagine that you are a data scientist working for a healthcare company and you have been asked to cluster the company’s patients into distinct groups based on their medical records. You have a dataset of patient information, including demographic data (age, gender, etc.), medical history, and test results. You want to use this data to identify groups of patients with similar medical profiles, so that you can better understand their health needs and design targeted interventions.

To do this, you can use hierarchical clustering to partition the patients into a hierarchy of clusters, where each cluster represents a group of patients with similar characteristics. You can then analyze the characteristics of each cluster to gain insights into the different types of patients in your dataset. For example, you might find that one cluster consists of young, healthy individuals with no major health issues, while another cluster consists of older, high-risk individuals with multiple chronic conditions. This information can help the company design more effective interventions for each group of patients.

How would you use Hierarchical Clustering in this scenario?

To use hierarchical clustering in the scenario described above, you would follow these steps:

  1. Preprocess the data: In order to use hierarchical clustering, it is important to preprocess the data first. This can involve cleaning and scaling the data, as well as imputing missing values. These steps help to ensure that the algorithm is able to identify patterns and structures in the data.
  2. Choose a distance measure: You will need to decide on a distance measure to use for calculating the similarity between patients. Some common distance measures include Euclidean distance, Manhattan distance, and Cosine similarity.
  3. Build the hierarchy: Using the chosen distance measure, you will then build the hierarchy of clusters by iteratively merging or splitting the clusters based on the similarity between patients. You can use a bottom-up approach (aggregative hierarchical clustering) or a top-down approach (divisive hierarchical clustering) to build the hierarchy.
  4. Visualize the hierarchy: You can use a dendrogram or a tree diagram to visualize the hierarchy of clusters and understand the relationships between the different groups of patients.
  5. Analyze the clusters: Once you have built the hierarchy of clusters, you can analyze the characteristics of each cluster to gain insights into the different types of patients in your dataset. You can use this information to design targeted interventions or make recommendations for each group of patients.

3. DBSCAN Clustering

DBSCAN (Density-Based Spatial Clustering of Applications with Noise) is an unsupervised machine learning algorithm that is used to identify clusters of points in a dataset based on their density. It is particularly useful for detecting clusters of arbitrary shape and for identifying outliers or points that do not belong to any cluster.

DBSCAN Clustering – Scenario Based

Here is a scenario in which you might use DBSCAN clustering:

Imagine that you are a data scientist working for an environmental organization and you have been asked to identify clusters of trees in a forest based on their location and species. You have a dataset of GPS coordinates and species information for each tree in the forest. You want to use this data to identify groups of trees with similar characteristics, so that you can better understand the structure of the forest and design conservation efforts.

To do this, you can use DBSCAN clustering to partition the trees into clusters based on their density and location. You can set the parameters of the algorithm (such as the minimum number of points required to form a cluster and the maximum distance between points in a cluster) to control the shape and size of the clusters.

How would you use DBScan Clustering in this scenario?

To use DBSCAN in the scenario described above, you would follow these steps:

  1. Preprocess the data: Before applying DBSCAN, you will need to preprocess the data to prepare it for clustering. This might involve cleaning the data, imputing missing values, and scaling the features so that they are on the same scale.
  2. Choose the DBSCAN parameters: You will need to decide on the values for the two main parameters of DBSCAN: the minimum number of points required to form a cluster (called “MinPts”) and the maximum distance between points in a cluster (called “eps”).
  3. Run the DBSCAN algorithm: Using the chosen parameters, you will then apply the DBSCAN algorithm to the dataset to identify the clusters of trees. The algorithm will assign each tree to a cluster based on its density and location, and will also identify any points that do not belong to any cluster (called “outliers”).
  4. Analyze the clusters: Once the DBSCAN algorithm has finished running, you can analyze the clusters to understand the structure of the forest and the characteristics of the different groups of trees. You can use this information to design conservation efforts or make recommendations for the management of the forest.
  1. Expectation-Maximization (EM): EM is a probabilistic approach to clustering that is particularly useful for datasets with continuous variables. It involves estimating the parameters of a mixture model, which is a combination of multiple probability distributions.

4. Expectation-Maximization (EM) Algorithm

The Expectation-Maximization (EM) algorithm is a type of unsupervised machine learning algorithm that is used to identify patterns and structures in data by fitting a probabilistic model to the data. It is particularly useful for clustering data when the distribution of the data is known or can be assumed.

EM algorithm groups data points into clusters by estimating the probability that each data point belongs to each cluster. It starts by making initial guesses for these probabilities and the characteristics of the clusters. The algorithm then adjusts these estimates based on the data until they stabilize. This process is repeated until convergence is reached.

EM Algorithm – Scenario Based

Here is a scenario in which you might use the EM algorithm for clustering:

Imagine that you are a data scientist working for a financial company and you have been asked to cluster the company’s clients into distinct groups based on their investment portfolios. You have a dataset of client information, including their investment holdings and risk tolerance. You want to use this data to identify groups of clients with similar investment profiles, so that you can better understand their investment preferences and make personalized recommendations.

To do this, you can use the EM algorithm to fit a probabilistic model to the data that captures the underlying structure of the investment portfolios. The EM algorithm works by iteratively estimating the parameters of the model and then using the estimates to update the model.

How would you use EM Algorithm in this scenario?

To use the EM algorithm in the scenario described above, you would follow these steps:

  1. Preprocess the data: Before applying the EM algorithm, you will need to preprocess the data to prepare it for clustering. This might involve cleaning the data, imputing missing values, and scaling the features so that they are on the same scale.
  2. Choose a probabilistic model: You will need to decide on a probabilistic model to fit to the data. This might be a Gaussian mixture model, for example, if you assume that the data follows a Gaussian distribution.
  3. Estimate the model parameters: Using the EM algorithm, you will then estimate the parameters of the chosen probabilistic model. The EM algorithm works by iteratively estimating the parameters and then using the estimates to update the model.
  4. Analyze the clusters: Once the EM algorithm has finished running, you can use the estimated model to identify the clusters of clients with similar investment profiles. You can then analyze the characteristics of each cluster to gain insights into the different types of clients in your dataset and make personalized recommendations.

5. Spectral Clustering

Spectral clustering is an unsupervised machine learning algorithm that is used to partition a dataset into clusters based on the eigenvectors of the data’s similarity matrix. It is particularly useful for clustering data that is not linearly separable or that has complex, non-linear structure.

Spectral Clustering – Scenario Based

Here is a scenario in which you might use spectral clustering:

Imagine that you are a data scientist working for a social media company and you have been asked to cluster the company’s users into distinct groups based on their online activity and connections. You have a dataset of user information, including the users’ profiles, posts, and connections to other users. You want to use this data to identify groups of users with similar behavior and connections, so that you can better understand their interests and preferences.

To do this, you can use spectral clustering to partition the users into clusters based on the eigenvectors of the data’s similarity matrix. The similarity matrix can be calculated using a variety of measures, such as the cosine similarity between users’ profiles or the number of connections between users.

How would you use Spectral Clustering in this scenario?

To use spectral clustering in the scenario described above, you would follow these steps:

  1. Preprocess the data: To use spectral clustering effectively, it is necessary to preprocess the data before applying the algorithm. This preprocessing step involves cleaning the data to remove any errors or inconsistencies, imputing missing values to ensure that all the data is complete, and scaling the features so that they are on the same scale. These steps help to ensure that the spectral clustering algorithm is able to identify meaningful patterns and structures in the data.
  2. Calculate the similarity matrix: You will need to calculate the similarity matrix for the data, using a measure such as cosine similarity or the number of connections between users.
  3. Compute the eigenvectors: Using the similarity matrix, you will then compute the eigenvectors of the matrix. The eigenvectors represent the directions in which the data is most spread out and can be used to identify clusters in the data.
  4. Cluster the data: Using the eigenvectors, you can then partition the data into clusters. You can set the number of clusters (k) that you want to create, or you can use a method such as the elbow method to determine the optimal value of k.
  5. Analyze the clusters: Once the spectral clustering algorithm has finished running, you can analyze the clusters to understand the behavior and connections of the different groups of users. You can use this information to design targeted recommendations or interventions for each group of users.
  1. Spectral clustering is a method of clustering that is based on the eigenvectors of the Laplacian matrix of a graph. It is particularly useful for clustering data that is not linearly separable.
About the Author
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Atul Harsha
Senior Manager Content

Experienced AI and Machine Learning content creator with a passion for using data to solve real-world challenges. I specialize in Python, SQL, NLP, and Data Visualization. My goal is to make data science engaging an... Read Full Bio