Outlier Detection (OD) is a Pattern Recognition task which consists of finding those patterns in a set of data which are likely to have been generated by a different mechanism than the one underlying the rest of the data. The importance of OD is visible in everyday life. Indeed, fast, and accurate detection of outliers is crucial: for example, in the electrocardiogram of a patient, an abnormality in the heart rhythm can cause severe health problems. Due to the high number of fields in which OD is needed, several approaches have been designed. Among them, Random Forest-based techniques have raised great interest in the research community: a Random Forest (RF) is an ensemble of Decision Trees where each tree is diverse and independent. They are characterized by a high degree of flexibility, robustness, and high generalization capabilities. Even though originally designed for classification and regression, in the latest years, due to their success, there has been an increased development of RF-based approaches for other learning tasks, including OD. The forerunner of several RF methods for OD is Isolation Forest (iForest), a technique which main principle is isolation, i.e. the separation of each object from the rest of the data. Since outliers are different from the rest of the data and thus easier to separate, we can easily identify them as those objects isolated after few splits in the tree. iForests have been employed in a great variety of application fields, showing excellent performances. This thesis is inserted into the above scenario: even if some extensions of basic RF-based approaches for OD have been proposed, their potentialities have not been fully exploited and there is large room for improvements. In this thesis, we introduce some advanced RF-based techniques for OD, investigating both methodological issues and alternative uses of these flexible approaches. In detail, we moved along four research directions. The starting point of the first one is the absence of RF methods for OD able to work with non-vectorial data: here we propose ProxIForest, an approach which works with all types of data for which a distance measure can be defined, thus including non-vectorial data as well. Indeed, for the latter, many powerful distances have been proposed. The second direction focuses on how to measure the outlierness degree of an object in an RF, i.e. the anomaly score, since most extensions of iForest concern only the tree building procedure. In detail, we propose two novel classes of methods: the first class exploits the information contained within a tree. The second one focuses on the ensemble aspect of RFs: the aggregation of the anomaly scores extracted from each tree is crucial to correctly identify outliers. As to the third research direction we took a different perspective exploiting the fact that each tree in a forest is a space partitioner encoding relations, i.e. distances, between objects. Whereas this aspect has been widely researched in the clustering field, it has never been investigated for OD: we extract from an iForest a distance measure and input it to an outlier detector. As last research direction, we designed a new variant of iForest to characterize multiple sclerosis given a brain connectivity network: we cast the problem as an OD task, by making an analogy between disconnected brain regions, the hallmark of the disease, and outliers. All proposals have been thoroughly empirically validated on either classical or ad hoc datasets: we performed several analyses, including comparisons to state-of-the-art approaches and statistical tests. This thesis proves the suitability of RF-based approaches for OD from different perspectives: not only they can be successfully used for the task, but we can also use them to extract distances or features. Further, by contributing to this field, this thesis proves that there are still many aspects requiring further investigation.

Advanced random forest approaches for outlier detection

Mensi Antonella
2022-01-01

Abstract

Outlier Detection (OD) is a Pattern Recognition task which consists of finding those patterns in a set of data which are likely to have been generated by a different mechanism than the one underlying the rest of the data. The importance of OD is visible in everyday life. Indeed, fast, and accurate detection of outliers is crucial: for example, in the electrocardiogram of a patient, an abnormality in the heart rhythm can cause severe health problems. Due to the high number of fields in which OD is needed, several approaches have been designed. Among them, Random Forest-based techniques have raised great interest in the research community: a Random Forest (RF) is an ensemble of Decision Trees where each tree is diverse and independent. They are characterized by a high degree of flexibility, robustness, and high generalization capabilities. Even though originally designed for classification and regression, in the latest years, due to their success, there has been an increased development of RF-based approaches for other learning tasks, including OD. The forerunner of several RF methods for OD is Isolation Forest (iForest), a technique which main principle is isolation, i.e. the separation of each object from the rest of the data. Since outliers are different from the rest of the data and thus easier to separate, we can easily identify them as those objects isolated after few splits in the tree. iForests have been employed in a great variety of application fields, showing excellent performances. This thesis is inserted into the above scenario: even if some extensions of basic RF-based approaches for OD have been proposed, their potentialities have not been fully exploited and there is large room for improvements. In this thesis, we introduce some advanced RF-based techniques for OD, investigating both methodological issues and alternative uses of these flexible approaches. In detail, we moved along four research directions. The starting point of the first one is the absence of RF methods for OD able to work with non-vectorial data: here we propose ProxIForest, an approach which works with all types of data for which a distance measure can be defined, thus including non-vectorial data as well. Indeed, for the latter, many powerful distances have been proposed. The second direction focuses on how to measure the outlierness degree of an object in an RF, i.e. the anomaly score, since most extensions of iForest concern only the tree building procedure. In detail, we propose two novel classes of methods: the first class exploits the information contained within a tree. The second one focuses on the ensemble aspect of RFs: the aggregation of the anomaly scores extracted from each tree is crucial to correctly identify outliers. As to the third research direction we took a different perspective exploiting the fact that each tree in a forest is a space partitioner encoding relations, i.e. distances, between objects. Whereas this aspect has been widely researched in the clustering field, it has never been investigated for OD: we extract from an iForest a distance measure and input it to an outlier detector. As last research direction, we designed a new variant of iForest to characterize multiple sclerosis given a brain connectivity network: we cast the problem as an OD task, by making an analogy between disconnected brain regions, the hallmark of the disease, and outliers. All proposals have been thoroughly empirically validated on either classical or ad hoc datasets: we performed several analyses, including comparisons to state-of-the-art approaches and statistical tests. This thesis proves the suitability of RF-based approaches for OD from different perspectives: not only they can be successfully used for the task, but we can also use them to extract distances or features. Further, by contributing to this field, this thesis proves that there are still many aspects requiring further investigation.
Outlier Detection, Random Forest, Pattern Recognition, Anomaly Detection
File in questo prodotto:
File Dimensione Formato  
Mensi_PhDThesis.pdf

accesso aperto

Descrizione: PhD Thesis
Tipologia: Tesi di dottorato
Licenza: Creative commons
Dimensione 6.42 MB
Formato Adobe PDF
6.42 MB Adobe PDF Visualizza/Apri

I documenti in IRIS sono protetti da copyright e tutti i diritti sono riservati, salvo diversa indicazione.

Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11562/1067504
Citazioni
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.pmc??? ND
  • Scopus ND
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.isi??? ND
social impact