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Must-Know ML Feature Engineering Techniques in 2024

MarkovML
January 9, 2024
7
min read

We are entering a unique era in the history of mankind. While 2023 can be defined as the year that witnessed the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI), 2024 will be the year where it surpasses even our greatest expectations.

As per Statista's forecasts, there will be 8.4 billion AI-powered digital voice assistant units by 2024, outnumbering the number of people worldwide.

In the realm of AI and Machine Learning (ML), feature engineering stands as a crucial step towards building high-performing models. It involves the process of transforming raw data into meaningful features that can be readily understood and utilized by machine learning algorithms.

By carefully crafting informative features, data scientists can significantly enhance the accuracy, interpretability, and efficiency of their models. 

Let's dig deeper into ML feature engineering and the various techniques that will make an impact in 2024.

What is Feature Engineering?

If you are familiar with ML models, you will know that the key to training and deploying efficient ML algorithms lies in the data that is used to train this system.

If the data contains inaccuracies or isn’t in the right format, it can create anomalies in the ML model that may not be noticed initially but can be detrimental to an ML implementation.

ML feature engineering is the process of transforming raw data into meaningful features that can be readily understood and utilized by ML algorithms. It encompasses a wide range of techniques, including data cleaning, feature selection, feature extraction, and feature creation.

Feature Engineering for ML: Tools, Tips, FAQ, Reference Sources
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Importance of Feature Engineering in ML

ML feature engineering plays a pivotal role in the success of ML projects for several reasons:

  1. Improved Model Performance: Well-engineered features provide the model with more relevant and discriminative information, enabling it to make more accurate predictions.
  2. Enhanced Interpretability: ML feature engineering can simplify complex relationships within the data, making it easier for both data scientists and stakeholders to interpret and understand the model's decisions.
  3. Handling Missing Data and Outliers: Proper handling of missing values and outliers ensures that the data accurately represents the underlying patterns and relationships.
  4. Noise Reduction: By focusing on the most informative aspects, feature engineering helps to filter out irrelevant or noisy information, leading to more robust and generalizable models.
  5. Addressing Non-Linearity: ML models often struggle with non-linear relationships. Feature engineering allows the transformation of variables to better capture these intricate patterns.

Top 9 Techniques for Enhancing Features in ML

Now that we understand the essence of ML feature engineering, let's explore the top techniques that are shaping the landscape in 2024.

1. Exploratory Data Analysis (EDA)

EDA is the initial step in feature engineering, involving data exploration to understand the distribution of features, identify patterns, and detect potential anomalies. This process provides valuable insights for subsequent feature engineering steps.

By visually and statistically analyzing the data, scientists can gain insights into relationships, patterns, and potential issues that guide subsequent feature engineering decisions.

2. Missing Data Imputation

Missing values can distort the true representation of data. Imputation techniques, such as mean imputation, median imputation, or k-nearest neighbors imputation, are employed to fill in missing values with plausible estimates.

3. Feature Scaling

Feature scaling standardizes the range of features to ensure that they contribute equally to the model's learning process. Scaling methods like Min-Max scaling and Standardization are essential for maintaining model stability and convergence.

4. One-Hot Encoding and Categorical Feature Transformation

One-hot encoding transforms categorical variables into binary vectors, enabling machine learning algorithms to process categorical data effectively. Other techniques, such as binary encoding and label encoding, can also be employed.

5. Feature Selection Techniques

Feature selection involves identifying and selecting the most relevant and informative features, reducing dimensionality, and enhancing model performance.

Techniques like Recursive Feature Elimination (RFE) and feature importance from tree-based models aid in effective feature selection.

6. Dimensionality Reduction

Techniques of Dimensionality Reduction aim to reduce the number of features while preserving the essential information in the data. Techniques like Principal Component Analysis (PCA) help reduce dimensionality while retaining the most critical information.

7. Feature Engineering for Time Series Data

Time series data poses unique challenges due to its temporal dependency. Techniques like feature extraction, feature generation, and temporal aggregation are used to transform time series data into a format suitable for machine learning algorithms.

8. Text Data Feature Engineering

Text data requires specialized techniques like tokenization, stemming, lemmatization, and n-gram generation to extract meaningful features from unstructured text. These features can then be used for tasks like sentiment analysis, topic modeling, and text classification.

9. Advanced Techniques

ML feature engineering also encompasses a vast array of advanced techniques, including feature interaction, feature hashing, and kernel methods. These techniques are often employed in complex ML domains to discover valuable features automatically.

Applications of Feature Engineering in ML

ML feature engineering has diverse applications and can be used in several functions or industries where ML is implemented. These include:

  • Fraud Detection: Feature engineering helps identify patterns and anomalies in financial transactions to detect fraudulent activities.
  • Medical Diagnosis: Feature extraction from medical images and patient data aids in accurate disease diagnosis and risk assessment.
  • Recommendation Systems: ML feature engineering plays a crucial role in building recommendation systems that personalize product or content recommendations for users. A prime example can be the use of ML algorithms to help make accurate recommendations on what to watch next on Netflix or the perfect book to buy on Amazon based on your previous purchases or searches. 
  • Natural Language Processing (NLP): Feature engineering can be used for tasks like sentiment analysis, machine translation, and text summarization in NLP applications.
  • Image Recognition: Feature extraction from images enables object detection, facial recognition, and other image-based applications.

Conclusion

ML feature engineering is an indispensable step in the ML pipeline, transforming raw data into meaningful features that empower ML algorithms to make accurate and insightful predictions.

By mastering feature engineering techniques, data scientists can unlock the true potential of data, driving innovation and solving real-world problems across various industries.

MarkovML offers a comprehensive suite of ML feature engineering features that streamline and enhance the machine learning workflow. These features enable data scientists and ML engineers to seamlessly explore, transform, and select relevant features from their data, leading to more powerful and interpretable models.

For more details, book a demo now!

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