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Cluster Analysis in Data Mining: Applications, Methods & Requirements

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Cluster Analysis in Data Mining: Applications, Methods & Requirements

Here we are going to discuss Cluster Analysis in Data Mining. So first let us know about what is clustering in data mining then its introduction and the need for clustering in data mining. The blogs cover how to define clustering in data mining, the different types of cluster in data mining and why clustering is so important. We are also going to discuss the algorithms and applications of cluster analysis in data science. Later we will learn about the different approaches in cluster analysis and data mining clustering methods.

What is Clustering in Data Mining?

In clustering, a group of different data objects is classified as similar objects. One group means a cluster of data. Data sets are divided into different groups in the cluster analysis, which is based on the similarity of the data. After the classification of data into various groups, a label is assigned to the group. It helps in adapting to the changes by doing the classification.

The aim is to partition a set of data points into distinct, non-overlapping groups called clusters such that data points within a cluster have high similarity but are quite dissimilar from points in other clusters

clustering in data mining

The metric for assessing similarity/dissimilarity is typically based on distance measures like Euclidean or Manhattan distance. Data points are closer in the same cluster compared to points across clusters.

By labelling related groups with cluster identifiers, clustering facilitates the interpretation and evaluation of data distribution across various domains. It has extensive market segmentation, pattern recognition, image analysis and information retrieval applications.

What is clustering in data mining? Cluster data mining is an unsupervised learning technique frequently leveraged in data mining for explanatory data analysis as it reveals intrinsic data organization without prior training. The clusters and their characteristics signify interesting correlations.

So if we were to define clustering in data mining, then we can say that the process of cluster in data mining is basically comprising a set of abstract objects into groups of similar objects. The process of dividing and storing them in these groups is known as cluster analysis.

Read: Common Examples of Data Mining.

What is Cluster Analysis in Data Mining?

Cluster Analysis in Data Mining means that to find out the group of objects which are similar to each other in the group but are different from the object in other groups. In the process of clustering in data analytics, the sets of data are divided into groups or classes based on data similarity. Then each of these classes is labelled according to their data types. Going through clustering in data mining example can help you understand the analysis more extensively.

Cluster data mining analysis is an unsupervised learning technique that groups data points based on their similarities. The goal is to create clusters where points within a cluster are more similar than points in other clusters. Some key aspects of cluster analysis:

  • It can be used to discover patterns in data without prior knowledge of class labels. The algorithm explores the data and groups similar points together.
  • Many clustering methods in data mining analysis algorithms include k-means, hierarchical clustering, density-based clustering, etc. Each has its approach for defining clusters.
  • The number of classification and clustering in data mining must be determined beforehand for some algorithms like k-means. Other algorithms, like hierarchical clustering, can infer the number of clusters from the data.
  • Choosing the appropriate clustering algorithm and tuning its parameters, like several clusters, is key for obtaining meaningful clusters from the data.
  • Cluster evaluation in data mining analysis is commonly used for exploratory data analysis, market segmentation, social network analysis, and image segmentation.
  • Cluster evaluation in data mining results requires domain knowledge and analyzing cluster characteristics like tightness, separation, etc. External evaluation measures can also be used if class labels are available.

So, in summary, clustering methods in data mining analysis groups unlabeled data based on similarity, revealing intrinsic patterns in the data. It is an important unsupervised learning technique for exploratory data mining.

Applications of Data Mining Cluster Analysis

There are many uses of Data clustering analysis such as image processing, data analysis, pattern recognition, market research and many more. Using Data clustering, companies can discover new groups in the database of customers. They can also classify the existing customer base into distinct groups depending on the patterns of their purchases. Classification of data can also be done based on patterns of purchasing.

Taxonomy or the classification of animals with the help of cluster analysis is very common in the field of biology. Clustering can help identify and group species with similar genetic features and functionalities and also give us an understanding of some of the most commonly found inherent structures of specific populations or species.  Areas are identified using the clustering in data mining. In the database of earth observation, lands are identified which are similar to each other.

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Based on geographic location, value and house type, a group of houses are defined in the city. Clustering in data mining helps in the discovery of information by classifying the files on the internet. It is also used in detection applications. Fraud in a credit card can be easily detected using clustering in data mining which analyzes the pattern of deception. Read more about the applications of data science in finance industry.

If someone wanted to observe the characteristics of each data cluster, then cluster analysis can act as the tool to help them gain insight into the data clusters.  

It helps in understanding each cluster and its characteristics. One can understand how the data is distributed, and it works as a tool in the function of data mining.

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Requirements of Clustering in Data Mining

  • Interpretability

Interpretability means that the clusters and their definitions should make intuitive sense and provide insight into the underlying patterns in the data. The clustering model and its results need to be transparent and understandable to users who may not be data scientists. The model is not very useful in practice if the clusters do not correspond to meaningful segments.

The types of data in cluster analysis in data mining of clustering should be usable, understandable and interpretable. The main aim of cluster analysis in data mining is to make sure haphazard data is stored in groups based on their characteristical similarity.

Some types of clustering in data mining to promote interpretability in cluster analysis:

  • Use cluster analysis in data mining algorithms that produce clusters with understandable characteristics instead of being treated as black boxes. For example, k-means forms spherical, tightly grouped clusters.
  • Visualize and explore the clusters to see if they match human intuition and domain expectations. Visual aids like data projections and heat maps can help.
  • Examine each cluster and identify what common traits or attributes define that group. Attach meaningful labels or descriptions to each cluster.
  • Evaluate cluster cohesion to ensure points within a cluster are tightly grouped, i.e. high intra-cluster similarity. Also, check for separation between clusters.
  • Keep the number of clusters relatively low. Too many clusters reduce interpretability.
  • Use domain expertise to validate that the clustering matches real-world segments.
  • Helps in dealing with messed up data

Usually, the data is messed up and unstructured. It cannot be analyzed quickly, and that is why the clustering of information is so significant in data mining. Grouping can give some structure to the data by organizing it into groups of similar data objects.

It becomes more comfortable for the data expert in processing the data and also discover new things. Analyzing data that has already been classified and labelled through clustering is much easier than analyzing unstructured data. It also leaves less room for error. 

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  • High Dimensional

High dimensional data refers to data sets with many attributes, features or variables. For example, a customer dataset may contain hundreds of columns for attributes like demographics, purchase history, web activity, survey data, etc.

Data clustering is also able to handle the data of high dimension along with the data of small size. The clustering algorithms in data mining need to be able to handle any dimension of data. 

Working with high dimensional data presents some key challenges for clustering algorithms:

  • Curse of dimensionality – distance measures can become meaningless as the number of dimensions increases. Clusters become increasingly sparse and dissimilar.
  • Computational complexity – processing a large number of dimensions requires more computing resources. The risk of overfitting also rises.
  • Redundant attributes – many attributes may be correlated, leading to redundancy. Irrelevant attributes act as noise. 

Some clustering techniques in data mining to handle high dimensional data for effective clustering:

  • Feature selection – select subsets of the most relevant attributes and ignore redundant/irrelevant ones. Reduces noise and computational needs.
  • Dimensionality reduction – use techniques like PCA to project data into lower dimensions while retaining most information. Makes distances more meaningful.
  • Regularization – constrains model complexity to avoid overfitting on high dimensions.
  • Distributed, parallel processing – to scale computation across clusters of machines.
  • Using appropriate distance measures – certain measures like cosine similarity handle high dimensions better.
  • Attribute shape clusters are discovered

Clustering algorithms in data mining should be able to detect arbitrarily shaped clusters. These algorithms should not be limited by only being able to find smaller, spherical clusters.

Real-world data may contain complex cluster shapes and densities. For example, the attributes of customers in a cluster may form an elongated, diagonal shape rather than a simple sphere. Shape limitations in clustering algorithms can lead to poor-quality clusters that do not fit the intrinsic patterns.

Some clustering techniques in data mining clustering algorithms can detect types of clustering in data mining shape clusters:

  • Density-based methods like DBSCAN can find arbitrarily shaped clusters by looking at density reachability between points. Points with enough neighbours are grouped.
  • Hierarchical clustering builds a dendrogram to capture non-convex shapes based on similarity levels.
  • Probabilistic model-based clustering, like Expectation Maximization, can model complex cluster shapes based on probability density.
  • Using appropriate similarity measures like Mahalanobis distance rather than Euclidean, which assumes spherical shapes.
  • Allowing soft cluster assignments rather than hard assignments can better model overlapping clusters.
  • Neural network-based deep clustering can learn feature representations to capture complex shapes.
  • Using cluster validity measures to evaluate how well different shaped clusters are detected.

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  • Dealing with Erroneous Data 

Usually, databases carry a lot of erroneous, noisy or absent data. If the algorithm being used during clustering is very sensitive to this type of anomaly, then it can lead to low-quality clusters. That is why it is very important that your clustering algorithm can handle this type of data without problems. 

Real-world data often contains errors, outliers and missing values that can negatively impact the clustering process:

  • Outliers can skew distance calculations and centroids during clustering. This affects cluster assignments.
  • Missing or undefined values must be handled to avoid errors during similarity computations.
  • Mislabeled data points act as noise that creates ambiguity about cluster boundaries.

Some applications of clustering in data mining to handle erroneous data for clustering:

  • Data preprocessing to detect and remove/impute outliers and missing values.
  • Using robust cluster algorithm in data mining such as density-based methods, which are less sensitive to outliers.
  • Weighting attributes so noise in less important attributes does not dominate similarity measures.
  • Using cluster ensembles and consensus clustering to be robust against data errors.
  • Semi-supervised techniques that hint at how certain points should cluster can improve results.
  • Post-processing, like pruning smaller clusters with low density, can handle mislabeled points.
  • Algorithm Usability with multiple data kind

Many different kinds of data can be used with algorithms of clustering. The data can be like binary data, categorical and interval-based data.

Read: Data Mining Algorithms You Should Know

Real-world data contains various types: continuous, categorical, ordinal, discrete, text, etc. A clustering algorithm needs to be flexible enough to handle different attribute types and data scales/ranges:

  • Continuous numeric attributes – Require a suitable distance metric like Euclidean, Manhattan, Mahalanobis, etc. Values should be normalized before clustering.
  • Binary or nominal categorical attributes – Hamming distance or simple matching coefficients can be used. Alternatively, encode categories into numeric.
  • Ordinal attributes – Can use distance measures for numeric values after considering the order of categories.
  • Text attributes – Require text embedding into numeric vectors before using distance measures.
  • Mixed attributes – Gower’s similarity coefficient allows measuring proximity across different attribute types.
  • Non-numeric scales – Standardization or normalization is required before applying distance calculations.
  • Density data – This may need special treatment like using kernel density estimation.
    In addition, the cluster algorithm in data mining should be able to operate on diverse data types natively without requiring extensive data conversion as a preprocessing step.
  • Clustering Scalability

The database usually is enormous to deal with. The algorithm should be scalable to handle extensive database, so it needs to be scalable.

As real-world data continues to grow in size and complexity, clustering algorithms must be scalable to handle large datasets efficiently:

what is scalability

  • They should be able to distribute computation across multiple CPUs and machines to parallelize cluster analysis on big data.
  • Algorithms should have linear or near-linear time complexity rather than exponential growth. This ensures reasonable run times even for large inputs.
  • Data sampling or dimensionality reduction is sometimes needed as a preprocessing step before clustering massive datasets.
  • Core algorithms may need modification to make them more parallelizable through map-reduce style approaches.
  • Cloud computing provides the infrastructure to scale clustering using distributed microservice architectures.
  • Hardware innovations like GPUs and TPUs can accelerate some computations using parallelism.
  • Complex models like deep neural networks require careful distribution of parameters and training data across clusters of machines.
  • Model complexity may need to be reduced to avoid overfitting, which increases with more data.

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Data Mining Clustering Methods

Let’s take a look at different types of clustering in data mining!

1. Partitioning Clustering Method

In this method, let us say that “m” partition is done on the “p” objects of the database. A cluster will be represented by each partition and m < p. K is the number of groups after the classification of objects. There are some requirements which need to be satisfied with this Partitioning Clustering Method and they are: –

  1. One objective should only belong to only one group.
  2. There should be no group without even a single purpose.

There are some points which should be remembered in this type of Partitioning Clustering Method which are:

  1. There will be an initial partitioning if we already give no. of a partition (say m).
  2. There is one technique called iterative relocation, which means the object will be moved from one group to another to improve the partitioning.

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2. Hierarchical Clustering Methods

Among the many different types of clustering in data mining, In this hierarchical clustering method, the given set of an object of data is created into a kind of hierarchical decomposition. The formation of hierarchical decomposition will decide the purposes of classification. There are two types of approaches for the creation of hierarchical decomposition, which are: –

hierarchial clustering

1. Divisive Approach

Another name for the Divisive approach is a top-down approach. At the beginning of this method, all the data objects are kept in the same cluster. Smaller clusters are created by splitting the group by using the continuous iteration. The constant iteration method will keep on going until the condition of termination is met. One cannot undo after the group is split or merged, and that is why this method is not so flexible.

2. Agglomerative Approach

Another name for this approach is the bottom-up approach. All the groups are separated in the beginning. Then it keeps on merging until all the groups are merged, or condition of termination is met.

There are two approaches which can be used to improve the Hierarchical Clustering Quality in Data Mining which are: –

  1. One should carefully analyze the linkages of the object at every partitioning of hierarchical clustering.
  2. One can use a hierarchical agglomerative algorithm for the integration of hierarchical agglomeration. In this approach, first, the objects are grouped into micro-clusters. After grouping data objects into microclusters, macro clustering is performed on the microcluster.

3. Density-Based Clustering Method

In this method of clustering in Data Mining, density is the main focus. The notion of mass is used as the basis for this clustering method. In this clustering method, the cluster will keep on growing continuously. At least one number of points should be there in the radius of the group for each point of data.

4. Grid-Based Clustering Method

In this type of Grid-Based Clustering Method, a grid is formed using the object together. A Grid Structure is formed by quantifying the object space into a finite number of cells.

Advantage of Grid-based clustering method: –

  1. Faster time of processing: The processing time of this method is much quicker than another way, and thus it can save time.
  2. This method depends on the no. of cells in the space of quantized each dimension.

5. Model-Based Clustering Methods

In this type of clustering method, every cluster is hypothesized so that it can find the data which is best suited for the model. The density function is clustered to locate the group in this method.

6. Constraint-Based Clustering Method

Application or user-oriented constraints are incorporated to perform the clustering. The expectation of the user is referred to as the constraint. In this process of grouping, communication is very interactive, which is provided by the restrictions.

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What kinds of classification is not considered a cluster analysis?

  1. Graph Partitioning – The type of classification where areas are not the same and are only classified based on mutual synergy and relevance is not cluster analysis.
  2. Results of a query – In this type of classification, the groups are created based on the specification given from external sources. It is not counted as a Cluster Analysis.
  3. Simple Segmentation – Division of names into separate groups of registration based on the last name does not qualify as Cluster Analysis.
  4. Supervised Classification – Those type of classification which is classified using label information cannot be said as Cluster Analysis because cluster analysis involves group based on the pattern.


Cluster analysis is a critical unsupervised learning technique for exploratory data mining. It involves using algorithms to group data points based on similarity, revealing underlying patterns. The major types of data in cluster analysis in data mining for effective clustering include interpretability, handling high dimensions, varied shapes, data errors and types, and scalability.

Many clustering algorithms range from k-means, hierarchical, density-based, model-based, etc. Each has its approach to forming clusters. The appropriate choice of algorithm and tuning parameters, like several clusters, is key to generating useful insights.

So now we have learned many things about Data Clustering such as the approaches and methods of Data Clustering and Cluster Analysis in Data mining. Going through diverse clustering in data mining example can further assist you to get an in-depth insight into the process. 

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Rohit Sharma

Blog Author
Rohit Sharma is the Program Director for the UpGrad-IIIT Bangalore, PG Diploma Data Analytics Program.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1What are some of the drawbacks of cluster analysis?

Cluster analysis is a statistical approach that presupposes no prior knowledge of the market or customer behavior. Some cluster analysis methods produce somewhat different findings each time the statistical analysis is conducted. This can arise because there is no one-size-fits-all method to data analysis. Changing data outputs can be confusing and irritating for students who are new to the notion of cluster analysis.

2How is cluster purity and cluster quality calculated?

We multiply the total number of data points by the number of accurate class labels in each cluster. Purity rises as the number of clusters rises in general. If we have a model that organizes each observation into its own cluster, for example, the purity becomes one. We may compute the average silhouette coefficient value of all objects in a cluster to determine its fitness inside a clustering. The average silhouette coefficient value of all objects in the data set may be used to assess the quality of a grouping.

3What are the distinctions between K-means and K-medoids?

K-means tries to reduce total squared error, whereas k-medoids tries to reduce the sum of dissimilarities between points classified as being in a cluster and a point chosen as the cluster's center. Unlike the k-means method, the k-medoids algorithm picks data points as centers ( medoids or exemplars).

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