Machine Learning in RapidMiner: Predicting Flu Outbreaks

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Machine Learning in RapidMiner: Predicting Flu Outbreaks

Learn how to use RapidMiner's machine learning capabilities to predict flu outbreaks and be able to plan better for employees being on sick leave.

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Currently, the top three programs in automated and simplified machine learning are DataRobot, RapidMiner, and BigML. In this article, we will take a closer look at RapidMiner and tell you what it does and how it can make life easier for you.


It is critically important for any business to evaluate the “workforce” indicator within certain time periods. This allows you to plan business projects, which are always largely based on human resources. One risk factor may be seasonal outbursts of colds, when every year in winter, a significant number of employees are on sick leave. As a result, project deadlines shift — and any company would surely like to avoid such shifts. Machine learning can help with this.

With the help of RapidMiner, we will analyze data on colds and build a model capable of predicting disease outbreaks. Based on the results of the forecast, the company will be able to take measures in advance and avoid losses.

RapidMiner Process

On the left side of the screen, you can see a data loading panel and an operator panel. RadpidMiner provides the ability to download data from the database or a cloud storage (i.e. Amazon S3, Azure Blob, Dropbox). The set of operators is divided into the following categories for convenience:

  • Access to data (working with files, databases, cloud storage, Twitter streams)

  • Operators for working with the attributes of datasets (conversion of types, dates, operations on sets, etc.)

  • Mathematical modeling operators (forecast models, cluster analysis models, optimization models)

  • Additional help operators (Java and Groovy subroutines launcher, data anonymizer, email sender, and event scheduler)

We've described some of the main categories, each having its own subcategories and variations of the operators. It is worth paying attention to the possibility of adding operators from the ever-growing RapidMiner Marketplace. For example, among available extensions, there is an operator that allows you to convert datasets into time series.

In the central part of the screen, you can find a working area for creating data conversion processes. Using drag-and-drop, we add data to the process with which we will work, data transformation, modeling, and so on. By specifying the relationships between data and operators, we dictate the vector of the process execution. In the bottom center, you can find a panel with tips. Based on the processes built by other users, it advises you which operation to produce next. On the right, there is a panel with the parameters of the selected operation and detailed documentation of the parameters and principles of operation.

First, let's load the data on the number of Ukrainian search queries in Google related to the common flu.

RapidMiner - Collecting Data

Data represent the number of requests for the end of weeks from 2005 to 2015. When importing data, you must specify the date format for the correct construction of temporary charts. Let's connect the output of the data block to the output point of the process results (res). After clicking on the Start button, the program will show the total statistics.



Using the Charts tab, let's make a data distribution graph. The graph reflects the apparent periodicity of catching the flu: the first wave begins in autumn and the peak can be observed in February. Now, let's take data for Russia and see if the same periodicity persists there and whether the outbreak coincides with the periods that we have identified in Ukraine. To do this, load new data and merge them with the previously downloaded data. Merging should be done in the Date field with the help of the “Join” operator.

RapidMiner Data

RapidMiner Data

Building a Model

Let's discuss the construction of a model that will predict the number of cases in Ukraine. We'll predict the value of the series for the following week based on the values of the previous four weeks (approx. one month). In this article, we use a neural network of direct propagation to predict the time series. The choice of neural networks is justified by the simplicity of selecting the model parameters and their further use. Unlike autoregressive and moving average models, neural networks do not require any time series correlation analysis.

The scheme of the process allows you to predict the values of the time series.

RapidMiner Data Process

For a neural network operator to work correctly, it is necessary to convert the original time series into a training sample format. To do this, we used the Windowing operator from the Series Extension package. From the column of values, we obtained a table of the following format:

Data Table

Then, using the Select Attributes operator, we removed extra fields from the sample (dates for values 1-4). Teaching a neural network by a coach requires training and a test sample, so with the help of the Split Data operator, we divided BP in the proportion of 80 to 20.

According to the documentation of the Neural Net operator, it's necessary that the column of predicted values in the training sample has the name/role Label, for which the Set Role operator was used. Since the Forecast Date column does not participate in the forecasting, it needs to be assigned the ID role. We must connect the second output of the Split Data operator and the output mod of the operator Neural Net to the corresponding ApplyModel inputs. The Apply Model operator applies a control sample to the input of the trained model and compares the predicted and real values.

The final stage of our process is the Performance operator, which is necessary for determining result errors. The predicted value obtained from Apply model with Set Role (2) was assigned the Prediction role.

Let's consider the parameters used by the operators of the neural network and the errors in the calculations. By trial, we arrived at the architecture of the neural network. The deep feedforward neural network has two hidden layers: four neurons in the first one and 12 in the second. Sigmoid was used as the activation function. The training was conducted on normalized input data with a learning factor of 0.5 and a number of cycles of 1,500.

Forecasting Results

As a result of operating our model, RapidMiner provides three artifacts:

  1. Model: Its graphical representation, parameters, and weights vectors

  2. The results of the calculated errors

  3. Sampling of test data, supplemented with a column of predicted values

RapidMiner Forecasting Results

RapidMiner Data Forecasting

As you can see, the chart with predicted data is very close to real data. We estimate the results of the constructed model by calculating the forecast error using the next formulas:

Calculating Forecast Error

Calculating Forecast Error

...where An is a real value and Fn is a predicted value.

As a result, we get this:

  • MAPE = 5.47%

  • MAE = 21.748


Massive implementation of machine learning technologies entailed the creation of tools of varying degrees of complexity for end users. The RapidMiner program introduced in the article reduces the entry threshold for the study of machine learning technologies.

If you use this program, you do not need to be able to write code in Python or R. RapidMiner constantly advises you on the next step in the data preparation chain, model training, validation, and accuracy assessment. It allows you to automatically correct some errors in the process. It can help and explain the individual moments you might have missed previously.

While writing this article, we studied the functionality of RapidMiner. It is quite extensive and provides the ability to apply complex architectures of neural networks and fine-tune their parameters (the choice of the activation function, the configuration of neural links of hidden layers, etc.).

The license allows users to perform calculations in the RapidMiner cloud, which should shorten the training time and speed up the process of other characteristics. In addition, the license allows you to download more data and does not limit users to ten thousand lines.

The mathematical model constructed in the article has reached a margin of error of about 6% on test data. And with some changes, it can be used to predict growth of the flu. However, our main goal was to show the simplicity of the RapidMiner program used.

By using RapidMiner and any similar approach, any company can predict situations similar to flu outbreaks. Preventive measures taken based on the forecast allow us to reduce risks and ultimately increase profits.

Written by a collaboration of DataArt’s IoT Team.

ai, forecasting, machine learning, predictive analytics, rapidminer, tutorial

Published at DZone with permission of Kseniya Savitsina . See the original article here.

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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