# Finding clusters in multidimensional data

I have a set of data from 3,000 records. There are 5 attributes per individual (labelled A - E). I can use Kendall's W (coefficient of concordance) to determine the concordance between any two records.

What I require is a way to discern any clusters which exist across the entire data, and simply which of the attributes are within each cluster. e.g. for the data below I would see 2 clusters:

Cluster 1: C, D / Cluster 2: A, B

ID  | A   | B   | C   | D   | E   |
001 | 55  | 80  | 125 | 114 | 75  |
002 | 75  | 78  | 110 | 105 | 95  |
003 | 135 | 105 | 95  | 93  | 92  |
004 | 120 | 115 | 101 | 55  | 44  |


What techniques or approaches could I use to help with this?

• I am bit confused you want to cluster your instances (records) or you want to cluster your features (I am not sure what good this would do?). If it's the first I have interesting suggestions, if you want to cluster the features I am confused as to the purpose and why you wouldn't just use feature correlation or information theory. Sep 7 '18 at 1:40
• @JahKnows - Ultimately I want to cluster the features to determine which features are more or less aligned amongst the population. Can we start by finding clusters amongst the instances (records) first though and then look at which features correlate to those?
– Carl
Sep 7 '18 at 2:15
• Hm I do not think that really makes sense though. Let us take the example of clustering people. We have 4 features for each person, hair color, eye color, height, weight. What does it mean to cluster these features? Moreover, what does it mean to cluster these features to see how they correlate with the clustering of population? Sep 7 '18 at 2:35
• It's highly possible I'm not explaining things properly :) From your example, my data may show that there is a group of people who more often than not have blonde hair, blue eyes, are thin, and light. There is another group of people who are short and heavy, but their hair and eye colour varies.
– Carl
Sep 7 '18 at 3:19
• So you are clustering your records, as usually is done, as was explained nicely by @JahKnows. What is described below is a way to start, but also note that your feature space is 5-dim, and need be reduced to 2-dim/3-dim using one of dim. reduction techniques (to start with e.g. PCA) and cluster them. Although this method is not very recommended, as it is possible to have large part of information get lost in these two steps, but if you want to have a visual inspection of cluster you have to do it. Sep 7 '18 at 6:16

In general it does not make much sense to cluster features. In an ideal world for your features to be the best they can be they should actually be independent, thus there should be no relationship between them. Typically when we talk about clustering it is clustering the instances. To attribute some associative labels to a subset of the instances based on the similarity of their feature values.

Many clustering algorithms exist, I would say that the most popular is K-means however spectral clustering and Gaussian mixtures are also frequently used. As always, each algorithm is best suited for a specific type of dataset, it is up to you to choose which is best suited, or you can just try all of them and see which is best.

Here you can find a list of clustering algorithms with their respective usecases. Always use the libraries when you want to implement standard algorithms, they are highly optimized. But for education sake it is good to look at what is happening.

I will describe a homebrew version of the K-means algorithm such that you can understand what is happening under the hood and perhaps you will see why we cluster instances and not features.

# The K-means algorithm

import numpy as np
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt


First we will make some artificial data. These will consist of $n$ 2D Gaussian clusters with a given mean and variance. Here $n=5$ and we will have 300 instances per Gaussian distribution.

params = [[[ 0,1],  [ 0,1]],
[[ 5,1],  [ 5,1]],
[[-2,5],  [ 2,5]],
[[ 2,1],  [ 2,1]],
[[-5,1],  [-5,1]]]

n = 300
dims = len(params)

data = []
y = []
for ix, i in enumerate(params):
inst = np.random.randn(n, dims)
for dim in range(dims):
inst[:,dim] = params[ix][dim]+params[ix][dim]*inst[:,dim]
label = ix + np.zeros(n)

if len(data) == 0: data = inst
else: data = np.append( data, inst, axis= 0)
if len(y) == 0: y = label
else: y = np.append(y, label)

num_clusters = len(params)

print(y.shape)
print(data.shape)


(1500,)
(1500, 2)

So now we have 1500 instances (records) in 2D space. This can be extended to any number dimensions. 2 is easiest to plot.

plt.scatter(data[:,0], data[:,1])
plt.show() I will paste the entire algorithm at the bottom of the answer for a quick copy and paste but here I will go through its different parts so you can see how it works. The algorithm goes as follows: first we initialize some centroids within the range of our data. These are the red dots in the image below

def train(self, data, verbose=1):

shape = data.shape

ranges = np.zeros((shape, 2))
centroids = np.zeros((shape, 2))

for dim in range(shape):
ranges[dim, 0] = np.min(data[:,dim])
ranges[dim, 1] = np.max(data[:,dim])

if verbose == 1:
print('Ranges: ')
print(ranges)

centroids = np.zeros((self.k, shape))
for i in range(self.k):
for dim in range(shape):
centroids[i, dim] = np.random.uniform(ranges[dim, 0], ranges[dim, 1], 1)

if verbose == 1:
print('Centroids: ')
print(centroids)

plt.scatter(data[:,0], data[:,1])
plt.scatter(centroids[:,0], centroids[:,1], c = 'r')
plt.show() Then we will calculate the distance from each instance (record) to each centroid.

distances = np.zeros((shape,self.k))
for ix, i in enumerate(data):
for ic, c in enumerate(centroids):
distances[ix, ic] = np.sqrt(np.sum((i-c)**2))


Then we will attribute each instance as belonging to the centroid it is closest to.

labels = np.argmin(distances, axis = 1) Now we will update the position of the new centroids by finding the mean position of all instances which are closest to the given centroid in each dimension.

new_centroids = np.zeros((self.k, shape))
for centroid in range(self.k):
temp = data[labels == centroid]
if len(temp) == 0:
return 0
for dim in range(shape):
new_centroids[centroid, dim] = np.mean(temp[:,dim]) We then repeat this process until the centroids no longer move significantly. Usually if the difference in position for all the centroids is less than machine epsilon we consider the algorithm to have converged.

if np.linalg.norm(new_centroids - centroids) < np.finfo(float).eps:
print("DONE!")
break


For this dataset it took 16 iterations for convergence, this is the final result. What we see here is that each instance is grouped into a cluster with similar attributes as itself. For example if the dimensions of our data represented height (x-axis) and weight (y-axis), then we can group people into 5 different BMI indices.

• Purple: short and skinny
• Green: short and fat
• Blue: mid height and mid weight
• Yellow: Mid height and fat
• Turquoise: Tall and mid weight.

Each member in our population belongs to a specific BMI index which is clustered based on two measurable attributes he possesses (features), his height and his weight.

# The full K-means algorithm

This is the algorithm

class Kmeans(object):

def __init__(self, k=1):
self.k = k

def train(self, data, verbose=1):

shape = data.shape

ranges = np.zeros((shape, 2))
centroids = np.zeros((shape, 2))

for dim in range(shape):
ranges[dim, 0] = np.min(data[:,dim])
ranges[dim, 1] = np.max(data[:,dim])

if verbose == 1:
print('Ranges: ')
print(ranges)

centroids = np.zeros((self.k, shape))
for i in range(self.k):
for dim in range(shape):
centroids[i, dim] = np.random.uniform(ranges[dim, 0], ranges[dim, 1], 1)

if verbose == 1:
print('Centroids: ')
print(centroids)

plt.scatter(data[:,0], data[:,1])
plt.scatter(centroids[:,0], centroids[:,1], c = 'r')
plt.show()

count = 0
while count < 100:
count += 1
if verbose == 1:
print('-----------------------------------------------')
print('Iteration: ', count)

distances = np.zeros((shape,self.k))
for ix, i in enumerate(data):
for ic, c in enumerate(centroids):
distances[ix, ic] = np.sqrt(np.sum((i-c)**2))

labels = np.argmin(distances, axis = 1)

new_centroids = np.zeros((self.k, shape))
for centroid in range(self.k):
temp = data[labels == centroid]
if len(temp) == 0:
return 0
for dim in range(shape):
new_centroids[centroid, dim] = np.mean(temp[:,dim])

if verbose == 1:
plt.scatter(data[:,0], data[:,1], c = labels)
plt.scatter(new_centroids[:,0], new_centroids[:,1], c = 'r')
plt.show()

if np.linalg.norm(new_centroids - centroids) < np.finfo(float).eps:
print("DONE!")
break

centroids = new_centroids
self.centroids = centroids
self.labels = labels
if verbose == 1:
print(labels)
print(centroids)
return 1

def getAverageDistance(self, data):

dists = np.zeros((len(self.centroids),))
for ix, centroid in enumerate(self.centroids):
temp = data[self.labels == ix]
dist = 0
for i in temp:
dist += np.linalg.norm(i - centroid)
dists[ix] = dist/len(temp)
return dists

def getLabels(self):
return self.labels


To use the algorithm use the following, where data is artificial data we made above but can also be any numpy matrix where the records are the rows and the features are the columns.

kmeans = Kmeans(5)
kmeans.train(data)