We are living in one of the most exciting times, where faster processing power and new technological advancements in AI and ML are transcending the ways of the past. From conversational bots helping customers make purchases online to self-driving cars adding a new dimension of comfort and safety for commuters. While these technologies continue to grow and transform lives, what makes them so powerful is data.
Tons and tons of data.
Machine Learning systems, as the name suggests, are systems that are constantly learning from the data being consumed to produce accurate results.
If the right data is used, the system designed can find relations between entities, detect patterns, and make decisions. However, not all data or datasets used to build such models are treated equally.
Data for AI & ML models can be essentially classified into 5 categories: training dataset, testing dataset, validation dataset, holdout dataset, and cross-validation dataset. For the purpose of this article, we’ll only be looking at training dataset and cover the following topics.
- What is a training dataset?
- Why are training datasets important?
- How to build a training dataset?
What Is Training Data
Training data also called training dataset or training set or learning set, is foundational to the way AI & ML technologies work. Training data can be defined as the initial set of data used to help AI & ML models understand how to apply technologies such as neural networks to learn and produce accurate results.
Training sets are materials through which an AI or ML models learn how to process information and produce the desired output. Machine learning uses neural network algorithms that mimic the abilities of the human brain to take in diverse inputs and weigh them, to produce neural activations, in individual neurons. These provide a highly detailed model of how human thought process works.
Given the diverse types of systems available, training datasets are structured in a different way for different models. For conversational bots, the training set contains the raw text that gets classified and manipulated.
On the other hand, for convolution models using image processing and computer vision, the training set consists of a large volume of images. Given the complexity and sophistication of these models, it uses iterative training on each image to eventually understand the patterns, shapes, and subjects in a given image.
In a nutshell, training sets are labeled and organized data needed to train AI and ML models.
Why Are Training Datasets Important
When building training sets for AI & ML models, one needs huge amounts of relevant data to help these models make the most optimal decision. Machine learning allows computer systems to tackle very complex problems and deal with inherent variations of hundreds and thousands or millions of variables.
The success of such models is highly reliant on the quality of the training set used. A training set that accounts for all variations of the variables in the real world would result in developing more accurate models. Just like in the case of a company collecting survey data to know about their consumer, larger the sample size for the survey is, more accurate the conclusion will be.
If the training set isn’t large enough, the resultant system won’t be able to capture all variations of the input variables resulting in inaccurate conclusions.
While AI & ML models need huge amounts of data, they also need the right kind of data, as the system learns from this set of data. Having a sophisticated algorithm for AI & ML models isn’t enough when the data used to train these systems are bad or faulty. Training a system on a poor dataset or a dataset that contains wrong data, the system will end up learning wrong lessons, and generate wrong results. And eventually, not work the way it is expected to. On the contrary, a basic algorithm using a high-quality dataset will be able to produce accurate results and function as expected.
For example, in the case of a speech recognition system. The system can be made on a mathematical model to train the system on textbook English. However, this system is bound to show inaccurate results.
When we talk about language, there is a massive difference between textbook English and how people actually speak. To this add the factors – such as voice, dialects, age, gender – varying among speakers. This system would struggle to handle any cases or conversations that stray from the textbook English used to train it. For inputs having loose English or a different accent or use of slang, the system would fail to function for the purpose it was created.
Also, in a case, such a system is used to comprehend a text chat or email it would throw unexpected results. As a system trained in textbook English would fail to account for abbreviations and emojis used, which are commonly used among people in everyday conversations.
So, to build an accurate AI or ML model, it’s essential to build a comprehensive and high-quality training dataset. To help these systems learn the right lessons and formulate the right responses. While it’s a substantial task to generate such a high volume of data, it is necessary to do so.
How To Build A Training Dataset
Now, that we have understood why training data are integral to the success of an AI or ML model, it’s necessary to know how to build a training dataset.
The process of building a training dataset can be classified into 3 simple steps: data collection, data preprocessing, and data conversion. Let’s take a look at each of these steps and how it helps in building a high-quality training set.
The first step in making a training set is choosing the right number of features for a particular dataset. The data should be consistent and have the least amount of missing values. In case a feature has 25% to 30% of missing values, then this feature should not be considered to be part of the training set.
However, there might be instances when such features might be closely related to another feature. In such a case, it’s advisable to impute and handle the missing values correctly to achieve desired results. At the end of the data collection step, you should clearly know how to handle preprocessing data.
Once the data has been collected, we enter the data preprocessing stage. In this step, we collect the right data from the complete data set and build a training set. The steps to be followed here are:
- Organize and Format: If the data is scattered across multiple files or sheets, it’s necessary to compile all this data to form a single dataset. This includes finding the relation between these datasets and preprocess to form a dataset of required dimensions.
- Data Cleaning: Once all the scattered data is compiled to a single dataset, it’s important to handle the missing values. And, remove any unwanted characters from the dataset.
- Feature extraction: The final step in the data preprocessing step deals with finalizing the right number of features required for the training set. One has to analyze and find out features that are absolutely important for the model to function accurately and select them for faster computations and low memory consumption.
The data conversion stage consists of the following steps,
- Scaling: Once the data is placed, it’s necessary to scale the data as per a definite value. For example, a bank application containing transaction amount being important, then it’s required to scale the data on transaction value to build a robust model.
- Disintegration and composition: There might be certain features in the training data that can be better understood by the model when split. For example, time-series function, where days, month, year, hour, minutes, and seconds can be split for better processing.
- Composition: While some features can be better utilized when disintegrated, other features can be better understood when combined with another.
This covers the necessary steps to be taken to build a high-quality training set for AI & ML models. While this might help you formulate a framework that helps you build training sets for your system, here’s how you can put these frameworks into action.
Dedicated In-house Team
One of the easiest way for you could be to hire an intern to help you with the task of collecting and preprocessing data. You can also set up a dedicated ops team to help with your training set requirements. While this method provides you with greater control over the quality, it isn’t scalable, and you’ll be forced to look for more efficient methods eventually.
Outsource Training Set Creation
If having an in-house team doesn’t cut it, it would be a smarter move to outsource it, right? Well, not entirely.
Outsourcing your training set creation has its own set of troubles. Right from training people to ensuring quality is maintained to making sure people aren’t cutting slack.
Training Data Solutions Providers
With AI & ML technologies continuing to grow and more companies joining the bandwagon to roll out AI-enabled tools. There are a plethora of companies that can help you with your AI/ML training dataset requirement. We at Bridged.co have served prominent enterprises delivering over 50 million datasets.
And that is everything you need to know about training data, and how to go about creating one that helps you build powerful, robust, and accurate systems.
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