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A New Tidy Data Structure to Support Exploration and Modeling of Temporal Data

posted on 01.01.2020, 22:36 by Earo Wang, Dianne Cook, Rob J. Hyndman

Mining temporal data for information is often inhibited by a multitude of formats: regular or irregular time intervals, point events that need aggregating, multiple observational units or repeated measurements on multiple individuals, and heterogeneous data types. This work presents a cohesive and conceptual framework for organizing and manipulating temporal data, which in turn flows into visualization, modeling, and forecasting routines. Tidy data principles are extended to temporal data by: (1) mapping the semantics of a dataset into its physical layout; (2) including an explicitly declared “index” variable representing time; (3) incorporating a “key” comprising single or multiple variables to uniquely identify units over time. This tidy data representation most naturally supports thinking of operations on the data as building blocks, forming part of a “data pipeline” in time-based contexts. A sound data pipeline facilitates a fluent workflow for analyzing temporal data. The infrastructure of tidy temporal data has been implemented in the R package, called tsibble. Supplementary materials for this article are available online.