Question: What are some recommended techniques for matching specific patterns in data sets?


I have several thousand sites for which I have collected time series data. In the example image below we have increasing time in y-direction with data streams from 2 different instruments shown from two sites. I have added hand-picked, color-coded correlation markers for four significant events. Normally we would pick 10-15 of these markers at each measurement location.

Typically, these markers are correlated by hand, however, with 1000s of sampling sites this is not feasible in a reasonable amount of time. I have performed hand correlations on ~150 of the data streams, but would prefer to use an automated or semi-automated process to do the correlation.

We have the following beliefs about the data:

  • By picking a sparse data set (e.g., the first 150 hand picked correlations) we can make a strong guess about the location of the marker in adjacent sites.
  • The time-separation between markers is not constant, but has only minor variation
  • Marker A will always come before Marker B, and Marker B before Marker C and so on.
  • Not all markers will be present at all measurement sites
  • Not all measurement sites were able to evaluate a full time series (in example below, imagine if one had been cut off at 8000ms instead of going past 10,000ms
  • The data can easily be normalized to have a similar range of values.

Prior Approach

I have used both DTW and Fast DTW (dynamic time warping) to perform the task, but it only works well when there is a full and complete data stream and when all markers are present. The downside to DTW is that it is an O(N2) approach, and with data streams of 20,000+ samples and about 5000 measurement sites, it is simply too computationally slow.

Restatement of Question

  • What are some recommended techniques for matching specific "markers" in time series data?
  • Are there techniques that just evaluate certain portions of the data stream vs. something like dynamic time warping that evaluates the whole data stream?
  • What data pre-processing should I consider to make this computationally easier?

Example Data

increasing time in y-direction, data streams from 2 different instruments shown, hand picked correlation markers for significant events shown


1 Answer 1


I'm no expert with signal processing but my first attempt to solve the complexity issue would be to downsample the time series. For instance if you resample a 10k points series to say 100 points, methods such as DTW can be applied to get a first approximation of the "global" similarity between 2 signals. This would take much less time than comparing the full time series, and then based on the result (for instance using a threshold) only the pairs of signals with high similarity would be compared fully. In other words, the first step acts as a filter so that only a subset of the pairs need a detailed comparison.

  • $\begingroup$ That certainly speeds up a method like DTW, but still unsure if DTW is the right choice for this problem. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 1, 2021 at 16:37

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