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I use Statistics::Descriptive a fair bit. It's a great module that's been around a long time and is well tested. However, if you need to use the functionality in Statistics::Descriptive::Full, it stores your entire data set in an array. If you have, oh, 2 million plus data points, then that array gets rather large. On a recent real-world data set that I've been analyzing, I had several sets of data with 2.6 million data points. Statistics::Descriptive crunched the data ok but it took 10 minutes and more than 400MB of memory! Since I needed to analyze a lot of data I wanted to find a better way.

There's got to be a better way

Although my data set is large, I happen to know an interesting thing about the data: it is satellite telemetry that's discretized (is that a word?) into a 4 bit word. That means there's at most 16 possible values for each data point. All of the statistics I'm interested in can be calculated if I know what values I saw and how many times I saw each value. Aha! Sounds like a job for a hash.

So, instead of storing every data point in an array, I only store the values I've seen and the number of times I've seen them in a hash.


Using the hash idea, I implemented this module (named Statistics::Descriptive::Discretized for now). The data is stored in a hash instead of an array. This works very well if you have a limited number of discrete values in your data set. I've tested this with simulated 16 bit output (meaning 2^16 possible values) and it scales quite well, even with 1 million+ data points with 65,536 possible values. If your input data is not limited to discrete values then this will probably perform worse than the array method used by Statistics::Descriptive.

I've tried to keep the interface as close as possible to the Statistics::Descriptive interface. This is a rough draft and all of the routines in Statistics::Descriptive are not fully implemented yet. (Indeed, any that depend on the original order of the data can't be implemented with this method). For many purposes, this module should be a drop in replacement for Statistics::Descriptive.


I tested this module (using Statistics::Descriptive as a baseline) against several large real world data sets. Statistics::Descriptive::Discretized scales linearly and blows the socks off of Statistics::Descriptive. (I'm not knocking the excellent Statistics::Descriptive -- it's a great module! I just present an alternative that works better for certain data sets). Here are some results:
Data pointsRun Time (sec)
Run Time (sec)

As you can see, after a million points, Statistics::Descriptive starts to scale somewhat exponentially but the Discretized version stays linear. For the test case with 2.6 million data points, this module is 14 times faster than the baseline (and it uses only a few MB of RAM while Statistics::Descriptive uses more than 400MB for this data set!)

The Code

Here's a sample program that shows how to use it. If you have any suggestions, critiques, etc. please fire away. If this seems like a useful thing, I'll clean it up for the CPAN.
#!/usr/bin/perl use strict; use warnings; my $stats = new StatisticsDescriptiveDiscretized; #some random test data my @data = qw(2 7 5 1 13 1 10 6 4 1 4 7 11 6 10 15 0 6 7 8); $stats->add_data(@data); print "count = ",$stats->count(),"\n"; print "uniq = ",$stats->uniq(),"\n"; print "sum = ",$stats->sum(),"\n"; print "min = ",$stats->min(),"\n"; print "max = ",$stats->max(),"\n"; print "mean = ",$stats->mean(),"\n"; print "standard_deviation = ",$stats->standard_deviation(),"\n"; print "variance = ",$stats->variance(),"\n"; print "sample_range = ",$stats->sample_range(),"\n"; print "mode = ",$stats->mode(),"\n"; print "median = ",$stats->median(),"\n"; #print out the frequency distribution print "\nvalue\t\tfrequency\n"; print "-"x20,"\n"; my %histogram = $stats->frequency_distribution(5); print "$_\t\t$histogram{$_}\n" foreach (sort {$a <=> $b} keys %histogr +am); BEGIN { package StatisticsDescriptiveDiscretized; ### This module draws heavily from Statistics::Descriptive use strict; use warnings; use Carp; use vars qw($VERSION $REVISION $AUTOLOAD $DEBUG %autosubs); $VERSION = '0.1'; $REVISION = '$Revision: 1.17 $'; $DEBUG = 0; #what subs can be autoloaded? %autosubs = ( count => undef, mean => undef, sum => undef, uniq => undef, mode => undef, median => undef, min => undef, max => undef, standard_deviation => undef, sample_range => undef, variance => undef, ); sub new { my $proto = shift; my $class = ref($proto) || $proto; my $self = {}; $self->{permitted} = \%autosubs; $self->{data} = (); $self->{dirty} = 1; #is the data dirty? bless ($self,$class); print __PACKAGE__,"->new(",join(',',@_),")\n" if $DEBUG; return $self; } sub add_data { #add data but don't compute ANY statistics yet my $self = shift; print __PACKAGE__,"->add_data(",join(',',@_),")\n" if $DEBUG; #get each element and add 0 to force it be a number #that way, 0.000 and 0 are treated the same my $val = shift; while (defined $val) { $val += 0; $self->{data}{$val}++; #set dirty flag so we know cached stats are invalid $self->{dirty}++; $val = shift; #get next element } } sub _all_stats { #compute all the stats in one sub to save overhead of sub calls #a little wasteful to do this if all we want is count or sum for e +xample but #I want to keep add_data as lean as possible since it gets called +a lot my $self = shift; print __PACKAGE__,"->_all_stats(",join(',',@_),")\n" if $DEBUG; #count = total number of data values we have my $count = 0; $count += $_ foreach (values %{$self->{data}}); #uniq = number of unique data values my $uniq = keys %{$self->{data}}; #initialize min, max, mode to an arbitrary value that's in the has +h my $default = (keys %{$self->{data}})[0]; my $max = $default; my $min = $default; my $mode = $default; my $moden = 0; my $sum = 0; #find min, max, sum, and mode foreach (keys %{$self->{data}}) { my $n = $self->{data}{$_}; $sum += $_ * $n; $min = $_ if $_ < $min; $max = $_ if $_ > $max; #only finds one mode but there could be more than one #also, there might not be any mode (all the same frequency) #todo: need to make this more robust if ($n > $moden) { $mode = $_; $moden = $n; } } my $mean = $sum/$count; my $stddev = 0; my $variance = 0; if ($count > 1) { foreach my $val (keys %{$self->{data}}) { #how many times the square of the value $stddev += $self->{data}{$val} * $val * $val; } $variance = ($stddev - $count*$mean*$mean)/($count - 1); $stddev = sqrt($variance); } else {$stddev = undef} #find median, and do it without creating a list of the all the dat +a points #if n=count is odd and n=2k+1 then median = data(k+1) #if n=count is even and n=2k, then median = (data(k) + data(k+1))/ +2 my $odd = $count % 2; #odd or even number of points? my $even = !$odd; my $k = $odd ? ($count-1)/2 : $count/2; my $median = undef; my $temp = 0; MEDIAN: foreach my $val (sort {$a <=> $b} (keys %{$self->{data}})) { foreach (1..$self->{data}{$val}) { $temp++; if (($temp == $k) && $even) { $median += $val; } elsif ($temp == $k+1) { $median += $val; $median /= 2 if $even; last MEDIAN; } } } $self->{count} = $count; $self->{uniq} = $uniq; $self->{sum} = $sum; $self->{standard_deviation} = $stddev; $self->{variance} = $variance; $self->{min} = $min; $self->{max} = $max; $self->{sample_range} = $max - $min; $self->{mean} = $mean; $self->{median} = $median; $self->{mode} = $mode; $self->{dirty} = 0; } sub get_data { #returns a list of the data in sorted order #the list could be very big an this defeat the purpose of using th +is module #use this only if you really need it my $self = shift; print __PACKAGE__,"->get_data(",join(',',@_),")\n" if $DEBUG; my @data; foreach my $val (sort {$a <=> $b} (keys %{$self->{data}})) { push @data, $val foreach (1..$self->{data}{$val}); } return @data; } sub frequency_distribution { #Compute frequency distribution (histogram), borrowed heavily from + Statistics::Descriptive #Behavior is slightly different than Statistics::Descriptive #e.g. if partition is not specified, we use uniq to set the number + of partitions # if partition = 0, then we return the data hash WITHOUT binni +ng it into equal bins #Why? because I like it this way -- I often want to just see how m +any of each value I saw #Also, you can manually pass in the bin info (min bin, bin size, a +nd number of partitions) #I don't cache the frequency data like Statistics::Descriptive doe +s since it's not as expensive to compute #but I might add that later #todo: the minbin/binsize stuff is funky and not intuitive -- fix +it my $self = shift; print __PACKAGE__,"->frequency_distribution(",join(',',@_),")\n" i +f $DEBUG; my $partitions = shift; #how many partitions (bins)? my $minbin = shift; #upper bound of first bin my $binsize = shift; #how wide is each bin? #if partition == 0, then just give 'em the data hash if (defined $partitions && ($partitions == 0)) { $self->{frequency_partitions} = 0; %{$self->{frequency}} = %{$self->{data}}; return %{$self->{frequency}}; } #otherwise, partition better be >= 1 return undef unless $partitions >= 1; $self->_all_stats() if $self->{dirty}; #recompute stats if dirty, +(so we have count) return undef if $self->{count} < 2; #must have at least 2 values #set up the bins my ($interval, $iter, $max); if (defined $minbin && defined $binsize) { $iter = $minbin; $max = $minbin+$partitions*$binsize - $binsize; $interval = $binsize; $iter -= $interval; #so that loop that sets up bins works corr +ectly } else { $iter = $self->{min}; $max = $self->{max}; $interval = $self->{sample_range}/$partitions; } my @k; my %bins; while (($iter += $interval) < $max) { $bins{$iter} = 0; push @k, $iter; } $bins{$max} = 0; push @k, $max; VALUE: foreach my $val (keys %{$self->{data}}) { foreach my $k (@k) { if ($val <= $k) { $bins{$k} += $self->{data}{$val}; #how many of this v +alue do we have? next VALUE; } } } %{$self->{frequency}} = %bins; $self->{frequency_partitions} = $partitions; #in case I add cachin +g in the future return %{$self->{frequency}}; } sub AUTOLOAD { my $self = shift; my $type = ref($self) or croak "$self is not an object"; my $name = $AUTOLOAD; $name =~ s/.*://; ##Strip fully qualified-package portion return if $name eq "DESTROY"; unless (exists $self->{permitted}{$name} ) { croak "Can't access `$name' field in class $type"; } print __PACKAGE__,"->AUTOLOAD $name\n" if $DEBUG; #compute stats if necessary $self->_all_stats() if $self->{dirty}; return $self->{$name}; } 1; } #BEGIN __END__ =head1 NAME StatisticsDescriptiveDiscretized -- any ideas for a better name? =head1 SYNOPSIS use StatisticsDescriptiveDiscretized; my $stats = new StatisticsDescriptiveDiscretized; $stats->add_data(1,10,2,0,1,4,5,1,10,8,7); print "count = ",$stats->count(),"\n"; print "uniq = ",$stats->uniq(),"\n"; print "sum = ",$stats->sum(),"\n"; print "min = ",$stats->min(),"\n"; print "max = ",$stats->max(),"\n"; print "mean = ",$stats->mean(),"\n"; print "standard_deviation = ",$stats->standard_deviation(),"\n"; print "variance = ",$stats->variance(),"\n"; print "sample_range = ",$stats->sample_range(),"\n"; print "mode = ",$stats->mode(),"\n"; print "median = ",$stats->median(),"\n"; =head1 DESCRIPTION This module provides basic functions used in descriptive statistics. It borrows very heavily from Statistics::Descriptive::Full with one ma +jor difference. This module is optimized for discretized data (anyone know a better word for that?) e.g. data from an A/D converter that has a discrete set of possible values. E.g. if your data is produced by an 8 bit A/D then you'd have only 256 possible values in your data set. Even though you might have a million data points, you'd only hav +e 256 different values in those million points. Instead of storing the entire data set as Statistics::Descriptive does, this module only stor +es the values it's seen and the number of times it's seen each value. For very large data sets, this storage method results in significant s +peed and memory improvements. In a test case with 2.6 million data points +from a real world application, StatisticsDescriptiveDiscretized took 40 sec +onds to calculate a set of statistics instead of the 561 seconds required b +y Statistics::Descriptive::Full. It also required only 6MB of RAM inste +ad of the 400MB used by Statistics::Descriptive::Full. =head1 NOTE This module is incomplete and not fully tested. It's currently only a +lpha code so use at your own risk. =head1 AUTHOR Rhet Turnbull, RhetTbull on =head1 COPYRIGHT Copyright (c) 2002 Rhet Turnbull. All rights reserved. This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same terms as Perl itself. Portions of this code is from Statistics::Descriptive which is under the following copyrights: Copyright (c) 1997,1998 Colin Kuskie. All rights reserved. This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same terms as Perl itself. Copyright (c) 1998 Andrea Spinelli. All rights reserved. This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same terms as Perl itself. Copyright (c) 1994,1995 Jason Kastner. All rights reserved. This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same terms as Perl itself.

In reply to Faster Statistics for Discrete Data by RhetTbull

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