K stands for clustering — Introduction

We are provided with a dataset of elements with specific characteristics and values ​​for these elements (for example, a vector). The challenge is to classify these elements into groups. For this we will use the kMeans algorithm; unsupervised learning algorithm.


(It helps if you think of objects as points in n-dimensional space). The algorithm will divide the elements into k similarity groups. To calculate this similarity, we will use Euclidean distance as a measurement.

The algorithm works as follows:

  1. First, we initialize k points, called means, randomly.
  2. We classify each element according to its nearest average and update its coordinates, which are the average of the elements classified in that value.
  3. We repeat the process for a given number of iterations, and at the end we have our clusters.

The above "points" are called averages because they contain the average of the items classified in it. We have many options to initialize these tools. An intuitive method is to initialize means of random elements in the dataset. Another method is to initialize the means at random values ​​between the boundaries of the dataset (if for the object the elements have values ​​in [0.3], we initialize the means with values ​​in [0.3]).

Above algorithm in pseudocode:

 Initialize k means with random values ​​For a given number of iterations: Iterate through items: Find the mean closest to the item Assign item to mean Update mean 

Read data

We receive input as a text file ("data.txt"). Each line represents an element and contains numeric values ​​(one for each function), separated by commas. You can find sample data here.

We will read data from the file, storing it as a list. Each list item is a different list containing item values ​​for objects. We do this with the following function:

def ReadData (fileName):


# Read the file, breaking down the lines

f = open (fileName, 'r' );

lines = f.read (). splitlines ();

f.close ();


items = [];


for i in range ( 1 , len (lines)):

line = lines [i] .split ( ',' );

itemFeatures = [];


for j in range ( len (line) - 1 ):

v = float (line [j]) ; # Convert object value to float

itemFeatures.append (v); # Add function value to dict


items.append (itemFeatures);


shuffle (items);


return items;

Initialize Means

We want to initialize the values ​​of each mean in a range of element feature values. To do this, we need to find the minimum and maximum values ​​for each function. We accomplish this with the following function:

def FindColMinMax (items):

n = len (items [ 0 ]);

minima = [sys.maxint for i in range (n)];

maxima = [ - sys.maxint - 1 for i in range (n)];


for item in items:

for f in range ( len (item)):

  if (item [f] & lt; minima [f]):

  minima [ f] = item [f];


if (item [f] & gt; maxima [f]):

  maxima [f] = item [f];


return minima, maxima;

Variables are lists containing the minimum and maximum values ​​of the elements, respectively ... We initialize the values ​​of each mean randomly between the corresponding minimum and maximum in these two lists:

def InitializeMeans (items, k, cMin, cMax):


# Initialize means random numbers between

# min and max of each column / function

f = len (items [ 0 ]); # number of functions

means = [[ 0 for i in range (f)] for j in range (k)];


for mean in means:

for i in range ( len (mean)):


  # Set the value to a random floating point number

# (add + -1 to avoid wide placement of the middle)

mean [i] = uniform (cMin [i] + 1 , cMax [i] - 1 );


return means;

Euclidean Distance

We will use Euclidean Distance as a measure of similarity for our dataset (note: depending on your subjects, you may use a different measure of similarity).

def EuclideanDistance (x, y):

S = 0 ; # Sum of squared differences of elements

for i in range ( len (x)):

S + = math. pow (x [i] - y [i], 2 );


return math.sqrt (S); # Square root of sum

Update Tool

To update the average, we need to find the average for its function for all elements in the average / cluster. We can do this by adding all the values ​​and then dividing them by the number of elements, or we can use a more elegant solution. We will calculate a new average without having to re-add all values ​​by doing the following:

 m = (m * (n-1) + x) / n 

where — the member average, the number of members in the cluster, and the member value for the added member. We do the above for each function to get a new average.

def UpdateMean (n, mean, item):

for i in range ( len (mean)):

m = mean [i];

m = (m * (n - 1 ) + item [i]) / float (n);

mean [i] = round (m, 3 );


return mean;

Classify items

Now we need to write a function to classify an item into a group / cluster. For a given element, we will find its similarity to each average and classify the element by the closest one.

def Classify ( means, item):


# Classify element by mean with minimum spacing

minimum = sys.maxint;

index = - 1 ;


for i in range ( len (means)):


# Find the distance from the element to the middle

dis = EuclideanDistance (item, means [i]);


if (dis & lt; minimum):

  minimum = dis;

index = i;


return index;

Find funds

To actually find funds, we will iterate over all the items, classify them by the closest cluster, and update the cluster average. We will repeat the process for some fixed number of iterations. If between two iterations no element changes the classification, we stop the process, since the algorithm found the optimal solution.

The function below takes as input (the number of desired clusters), the elements and the number of maximum iterations and returns averages and clusters. The classification of the element is stored in an array, and the number of elements in the cluster is — c.

def CalculateMeans (k, items, maxIterations = 100000 ):


# Find highs and lows for columns

cMin, cMax = FindColMinMax (items);


# Initialize funds at random points

  means = InitializeMeans (items, k, cMin, cMax);


# Initialize clusters, storage array

  # number of items in the class

clusterSizes = [ 0 for i in range ( len (means))];


# Array for storing the cluster that the element is in

  belongsTo = [ 0 for i in range ( len (items))];


# Calculate funds

  for e in range (maxIterations):


# If no change occurs cluster, stop

noChange = True ;

for i in range ( len (items)):


item = items [i];


# Classify item into cluster and update

  # appropriate tools.

index = Classify (means, item);


clusterSizes [index] + = 1 ;

cSize = clusterSizes [index];

means [index] = UpdateMean (cSize, means [index], item);


# Item changed by cluster

  if (index! = belongsTo [i]):

noChange = False ;


belongsTo [i] = index;


# Nothing changed, return

  if (noChange):

  break ;


return means;

Find Clusters

Finally, we want to find clusters given the means. We will loop through all the elements and classify each element by the closest cluster.

def FindClusters (means, items) :

clusters = [[] for i in range ( len (means))]; # Starter clusters


for item in items:


# Classify element into cluster

index = Classify (means, item);


# Add item to cluster

  clusters [index] .append (item);


return clusters;

Other popular similarity measures are:

1. Cosine distance: defines the cosine of the angle between point vectors of two points in n-dimensional space

2. Manhattan Distance: computes the sum of the absolute differences between the coordinates of the two data points.

3. Minkowski distance: it is also known as generalized distance metric. Can be used for both ordinal and quantitative variables.

You can find all the code on my GitHub plus an example dataset and plotting function ... Thanks for reading.

This article contributed by Anthony Maronikolakis . If you are as Python.Engineering and would like to contribute, you can also write an article using contribute.python.engineering or by posting the article [email protected] ... See my article appearing on the Python.Engineering homepage and help other geeks.

Please post comments if you find anything wrong or if you would like to share more information on the topic discussed above.

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