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Data Warehouses for Uncertain Data

Hoda M. O. Mokhtar

Abstract Data warehousing is one of the most powerful BI tools nowadays. A data warehouse stores historical data that is inte-

grated from many sources, and processes it in a multidimensional approach to make it easy to use for efficient decision making. How-

ever, so far most of the data warehouses designs are based on the assumption that data in the data warehouse is either true or true until

a new snapshot occurs. Today, many real world applications require handling uncertain data. Sensor networks, and a wide range of

location based services (LBS), and many others deals with data that is not 100% guaranteed accurate. Inspired by the importance of

those newly emerging application, in this paper we propose a novel framework for data warehouses that efficiently handles both exact

and uncertain data. We present the application of our model in the context of sensor networks and show analyzing uncertain data can

also be achieved.

Index TermsData Warehouses, analyzing fuzzy data, uncertain data warehouses, sensor data.

1 INTRODUCTION

NCERTAINITY is an inherent property in many real

world data. Even with the current advances in sensor

data acquisition, and positioning systems (GPSs), acquiring

100% accurate (exact) data is not feasible. In most realworld

applicationsdataacquiredisanapproximate,uncertain,fuzzy,

ornearaccuratedata.Acquiringanexactreadingofasensorat

every time instant or obtaining the exact location of a moving

objectateverytimeinstantisnotpossible.

Handlingdatauncertaintythusrequiresspecialtreatmentthan

regular traditional data that is assumed to be always true.

Handling uncertain and fuzzy data was discussed in the

database community is several research work including [16].

Probabilistic databases and fuzzy databases are among the

techniques proposed to deal with data uncertainty in the

database environment. In addition, several approaches were

presented for querying, managing, storing, and mining

uncertain data [79]. However, elevating this to consider

uncertainandfuzzyhistoricaldataindatawarehouseswasnot

thoroughly investigated [10, 11]. In general, data warehouses

were introduced to aid managers and decision makers in

makingthemostefficientdecision.Adatawarehouseissimply

defined as a subjectoriented, consistent, time variant,

and nonvolatile store of data that basically gains its power

through storing and handling measurable historical data [12].

Today, data warehousing is widely accepted of by many

organizationsasaneffectiveandefficientbusinessintelligence

and decision making tool. A key characteristic of data

warehouses is the usage of multidimensional model (i.e. star

schemaandsnowflakeschema).Thesemodelsenablethedata

warehouse to provide OLAP (OnLine Analytical Processing)

capabilitiesthatenrichthequeryingprocess.

However, current data warehouse models are built on the

assumption that data is true until a new instance (snapshot)

occurs. This assumption although valid in some applications

where obtaining exact values is possible, seems unrealistic in

manynewlyemergingapplicationswheredataerrorcanoccur.

Sensor failure, calibration error, measurement inaccuracy,

sampling discrepancy, and even outdated data are all normal

sources of data inaccuracy. These factors affect the nature of

datastoredinthedatabaseandconsequentlytransferredtothe

data warehouse for further processing. Suppose for example

we have a data warehouse to aid meteorologists in making

decisions based on weather monitoring readings. If we

determine that one of the basic sensors is probable to give

incorrect readings, how dowe know which reading is wrong?

Do we input all the readings in the warehouse and treat them

asiftheywere100%accurate?Whatifwehavemorethanone

faulty sensor? How do we combine those erroneous readings

and aggregate them? Inspired by the role of data warehouses

in many applications and the effect of data uncertainty on

query results and manipulation, in this paper, we investigate

thedesignofdatawarehouseschemathatiscapabletohandle

fuzzy, uncertain data in an efficient way. The main

contributionsofthepaperare:

1. Proposing a model for representing uncertainty in data

warehouses.

2. Extending traditional star schema model to capture and

handleuncertaindata.

U

- HodaM.O.MokhtariswiththeFacultyofComputersandInfor

mation,InformationSystemsDpet.CairoUniversity,PostalCode:

12613Egypt

2011JournalofComputingPress,NY,USA,ISSN

21519617

http://sites.google.com/site/journalofcomputing/

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3.Presentingtheapplicationofuncertaindatawarehousesina

realapplication(i.e.weatherdataacquiredfromsensors).

Therestofthepaperisorganizedasfollows:Section2presents

abriefoverviewofpreviousrelatedwork.Section3,discusses

ourdesignapproachforuncertaindatawarehouses.Section4,

discusses the application of our design to handle sensor data

(specifically weather data). Finally, section 5 concludes and

proposesdirectionsforfuturework.

2 RELATED WORK

Data uncertainty is an inherent property in various realworld

applications. Managing uncertainty in database systems had

been the focus of many research work specially recently with

theadventofvariousapplicationsthatarebasedonmeasured

data [1316]. Handling uncertain data has been the focus of

severalresearchworksinthedatabasecommunity.Ingeneral,

data uncertainty is a nature consequence of either

measurementerrors,orincompletedata.

Forexample,acquiringtheexactlocationofamovingobjectat

every time instant is not feasible. Thus, approximation and

predictiontechniquesareusedtoobtainmissinglocations.This

inturn,affectsthedegreeofaccuracyofthedatastoredinthe

database. Handling uncertain data can be divided into two

main directions: proposing efficient techniques to model the

uncertain data, and incorporating those models to serve

differentapplications[17,1,18].

Modelinguncertaindatainthedatabasecontextwasdiscussed

in several work [1,2,4]. Generally, uncertainty in the database

environment is classified as either value uncertainty (attribute

uncertainty), or tuple uncertainty (existential uncertainty). In

the first case,one or more fields might contain uncertain data,

whileinthesecondcase,uncertaintyisonthewholerecordas

whetheritexistsornot.Dealingwithbothcaseswasthefocus

of several works. In [19], the authors consider the use of

probability density functions (PDFs) to represent the

probabilistic nature of data. Although the solution is neat, a

strong probabilistic background is needed to maintain such

solution. In [20], the authors considered incomplete data, thus

fuzzy sets was an alternative approach. Using fuzzy sets [21],

theauthorsareabletoconsiderarangeofvaluesratherthana

singleexactvalueasusedbefore.Fuzzysettheoryisthetheory

behind the usage of fuzzy values. The fuzzy set theory

stipulates that not only are there values for given object

classification,buttheseobjectshavedegreesofmembershipto

theircategories(i.efuzzysets)aswell.Thus,fuzzysetsaresets

that include values (just like normal sets) as well as a

membership value (also known as degree of truth) that

indicates how strongly a certain value belongs to this set.

Hence,anelementisassociatedwithamembershipvaluethat

reflectsthedegreeofconfidenceofbelongingtoacertainsetof

values.Anothersolutionwasintroducedin[22].Inthispaper

the authors used NULL values for the missing entries. Other

work focused on querying uncertain data. In moving object

context,probabilistic range querieswereintroducedin[15].In

this paper the authors present a model and query answering

approach that employs stochastic processes to answer queries

over uncertain data. In [23] the authors consider sensor net

works and present a solution for indexing uncertain data in

sensor network environment. In [24] the authors consider the

problem of outlier detection in uncertain sensor data. Lately,

research was directed to consider mining and aggregating

uncertain data. Proposing different clustering techniques for

uncertain data was the focus of some work including

[18,10,25].

In this paper we continue to study uncertain data, However,

we follow a different perspective, we consider uncertainty in

the data warehouse environment. More specifically, how to

model and represent uncertainty in historical data stored in a

datawarehouse.

3 UNCERTAIN DATA WAREHOUSES

Inthissectionwepresentourapproachtodesignadataware

house(DW)thatiscapabletostore,manage,andanalyzeboth

exact and uncertain data. Following the traditional data

warehouse definition, we continue to have a consistent, time

variant, subjectoriented and historical store of data with an

additionalfeaturethatishandlinguncertaindata.

Althoughdatainthedatawarehouseishistoricalinnature,the

degree of confidence in each value stored in the data

warehouse need not be the same. Consider for example a

weather sensor that monitors temperature readings, once the

sensor acquires a reading, a snapshot is automatically

generated in the DW that basically records the sensor

identifier,thereading,andthereadingtime.Ifthesensorhada

measurement error the history of that sensor is thus affected

andconsequentlyfutureanalysisandreportscanbeaffectedas

well.Motivatedbythiskindofcommonlyoccurringrealworld

uncertainty situation, in this section we present our proposed

DW design to handle those situations both efficiently and

effectively.

Oursolutionoffersawaytohandleuncertainvaluesinadata

warehouse,betheyprobabilisticorfuzzy.Themainkeyinour

solutions is based on an important conclusion presented in

[26]. This conclusion states that both probability density

function(PDF)andamembershipfunctionproducevaluesthat

imply the same thing. The idea behind this conclusion is the

fact that a membership function produces values in the range

[0,1] which indicates how close an element is to a certain set,

and consequently measures its chance of belonging to this set.

Whereas,aPDFfunctionalsoreturnsavalueintherange[0,1]

thatindicatestheprobabilityofoccurrenceofacertainrandom

variable in an observation space. This mapping between the

two measures can enforce them to have the same

interpretation. This in turn allows us to treat the fuzzy set to

which an element belongs in the same way we treat its

probabilityofoccurrence.Hence,thecloserthevaluesareto1,

the more likely the element belongs to a fuzzy set and the

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higher its probability of occurrence. Using this conclusion we

are able to consider uncertain data regardless of its nature

(probabilisticorfuzzy).Ineithercaseweconsiderthepossible

range of values for a certain value (for example a sensor

reading)andmaintainaconfidencevalueintherange[0,1]that

expresses our belief level in this acquired value. Working in a

data warehouse environment, we use a multidimensional

model to model data in the data warehouse. In this paper we

only consider the denormalized star schema as it is widely

used in many systems. Following the traditional star schema,

ourproposedschemahas2maincomponentsnamely,thefact

table where numeric facts (measures) are kept for future

analysisanddecisionmaking,andthedimensiontableswhere

verboseattributesarestored.

multidimensionaldatamodel.

An uncertain star schema has a central fact table where both exact

and uncertainty facts are represented, along with descriptive

dimensiontables.

Where, uncertainty facts are numeric facts (measures) that express

thedegreeofconfidenceofthedatastoredinthedatawarehouse.

illustratedinFig.1.

Fig.1.AnUncertainStarSchema(ustarschema)

Definition2Anuncertainwarehouse(UDW)isasubjectoriented,

integrated, nonvolatile, and time variant store for both exact and

uncertain data. An UDW is modeled using a ustar schema with

additionalfacts(measures)thatreflectthedegreeofdatauncertainty.

warehouse,thenexttargetistoallowdataanalysis.Andsince

we are continuing to use a star like schema regular OnLine

Analytical Processing (OLAP) operations are still applicable.

Thus,wecanstilldrilldown,rollup,sliceanddice.Themain

function that needs further investigation is the aggregation

function. For aggregate functions, working in an uncertain

context forces us to consider average values rather than exact

values. Thus, we focus on efficiently calculating average over

uncertain data using the measures we are keeping in the fact

table.

Each measure in our model is associated with a confidence

level that indicates our belief in the truth of the data value.

Consequently, it is necessary to incorporate these measures

into the cube.Trying to aggregate the values presented a

problem as those measures are no longer discrete values but

ratherfuzzyorprobabilisticvaluesthatarethussemiadditive

facts. Therefore, simple aggregations can yield meaningless

values and further attention is required. Hence, averaging the

values is the common solution for aggregating semiadditive

values. The first approach to average confidence based values

istousetheuaveragefunctiondefinedbelow.

measure M in the fact table, and a fact table with n records. The

confidence of the measure M (Confidence(M)) is a real number over

therange[0:1].Suchthat:

1. IfMisarandomvariable,then,

Confidence(M)= probability of occurrence ofM according to a

given probability density function (pdf) with parameters (u,o),

where,u,oarethemeanandstandarddeviationresp.

2. IfMisafuzzyvariableoverafuzzysetF,then,

Confidence(M)=membershipfunction(M,F).

Inbothcases,theclosertheConfidence(M)isto1,themoreour

belief of truth and confidence in the measure recorded in the

facttable.Theclosertheconfidenceisto0,thelessourbeliefis.

Definition4GivenadatawarehouseD,withafacttablecontaining

n records. Let each record contains at least 1 fuzzy (probabilistic)

attributeAwithvalueti[A]1in.Suchthat:

n i

u

A t

i

i

i

s s = 1 ] [

o

Where, ui is the value for attribute A in tuple i, and oi is the

confidencemeasureforthatvalue.

Then,theaveragevalueofafuzzy/probabilisticmeasuresofattribute

A presented in the fact table over the nrecords denoted by

uaverage(A)isdefinedas:

) 1 (

) * (

*

) (

1

n

u

records of number

confidence measure

A uaverage

n

i

i i

=

= =

o

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Although the above approach to define the average yields

meaningful resultsfor probabilistic measures we present a

betterevaluationfortheaverageanditsconfidenceinterval.

Our computation depends on the use of intervals rather than

strict single values. In this approach, we assume that the

probabilisticmeasuresfollowaGaussian(normal)distribution.

Thereasonofchoosingthiskindofdistributionisitssimplicity

and that it is adequate to the type of measures we are

considering. Thus, we define for each measure value a

confidenceintervalusingthemean(u)andstandarddeviation

(o)ofthatmeasure.Usingbothparameters(u,o)alongwiththe

known error function (erf) from probability theory, we can

determinetheconfidenceofhavingavalueinthatinterval[27].

Thusitwasascertainedthatwhentheintervaliswidened,the

confidence decreased as more values can fall within this

interval.Atthesametime,theprobabilityoffindingthemean

inside the interval, however, increases. Thus, in this work for

fuzzy values we will compute the average according to

Equation 1, however, for probabilistic values we assume that

values are Gaussian random processes with mean u and

standarddeviationo.Hence,Gaussianerrorfunctioncanbe

employed.

Gaussian(normal)distributionwithstandarddeviationoandmean

(expectedvalue)0,then )

2

(

o

a

erf istheprobabilitythattheerror

ofasinglemeasurementliesbetweenaand+a,forpositivea[27].

Theabovedefinition,Definition5definestheerrorrangefora

special case of the Gaussian distribution (i.e. mean=0). This

definition is generalized in the probability theory yielding the

followinggeneralformulafortheconfidencerange.

Definition6GivenaGaussianrandomvariablexthatrepresentsa

measure (fact) represented in the fact table and an uncertain data

warehouse. Such that ) , ( ~ o u N x .Then the error function erf(x)

isdefinedas[27]:

dt e x erf

x

t

H

=

0

2

2

) (

Then,theprobabilityofameasurementfallinginarangeno around

themeanuforanynisgivenby:

)

2

( ) (

n

erf n x n P = + < < o u o u

measured values we can simply induce the confidence range

withthehighestprobabilityofhavingthemeasuredvaluein.

Besides, considering Gaussian random variables for our

uncertain facts allows us to use the Central Limit theory [27],

andalsotousethelinearcharacteristicof thenormaldistribu

tion to compute the average of a set of Gaussian (normal)

randomprocesses.

Definition7If ) , ( ~

2

i i i

N X o u areindependentvariables,andifai

1 i n and b are constants, then the Sum of those Independent

Random Variables also known as the Linear Combinations of

IndependentNormalRandomVariablesisgivenby[27]:

2 2 2

2

2

2

2

1

2

1

2 2 1 1

2

2 2 1 1

...

...

, ) , ( ~ ...

n n

n n

n n

a a a

b a a a

where N b X a X a X a Y

o o o o

u u u u

o u

+ + + =

+ + + + =

+ + + + =

function of the uncertain values of independent measures in

the fact table. This aggregated value will consequently follow

the same type of distribution as the original values (Gaussian

distribution)withthemeanandstandarddeviationasdefined

inthedefinition.

Definition 8 If

) , ( ~

2

i i i

N X o u

are independent variables, then the

Average of those Independent Random Variables X is distributed as:

) , ( ~

2

n

N X

i

i

i

o

u

.

Measures

Thustheaverageaggregateforprobabilisticmeasurescanalso

be computed yielding a normal distribution with u,o as

definedinDefinition7.

Finally, once the mean and standard deviation are calculated,

the confidence interval can be computed as shown above and

theustarschemacanbemodifiedasshowninFig.2andused

forfurtheranalysis.

JOURNAL OF COMPUTING, VOLUME 3, ISSUE 6, JUNE 2011, ISSN 2151-9617

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WWW.JOURNALOFCOMPUTING.ORG 182

4. UNCERTAIN DATA WAREHOUSES FOR WEATHER DATA

In this section we will explore the usage of our proposed

uncertain data warehouse in designing an UDW for synthetic

weather data acquired from sensor readings. We assume we

have sensors that measure temperature, pressure, rainfall, and

humidity and we treat those measurements as independent

measures. We also assume that the sensors follow normal

distributionintheirreadings.

Employing our proposed design schema we design the ustar

schema shown in Fig. 3. In this schema we have a central fact

table and 5 dimension tables (date dimension and 4 weather

sensordimensions).Weuseatransactionfacttablesoeachrow

inthefacttablerepresentsthereadingsofthedifferentsensors

on a specific date at a specific hour. We assume that readings

areobservedeveryhoursothelowestgranularitywehavefor

the time is hour. This assumption can be easily relaxed in real

applications and in this case it is preferable we split the

datatime dimension into 2 separate dimensions (data and

time)toavoidtheexplosioninthedimensiontablesize.Inthe

facttablewemeasuretheaveragevaluesforeachofthesensor

readings using the uaverage measure defined earlier. In addi

tion, we record the confidence range of each measure (CI)

giventhemeasuresattributes(u,o).Thisconfidenceintervalis

expressedinthefacttablewith2valuesasmeasureCIMinand

measure CI Max to express the minimum and maximum

bound of the interval. However, the fact table can keep more

than1interval(i.e.morerangesaroundthemean),thiswillin

turnaffectthepossiblenumberofqueriesthatweissueaseach

rangetranslatestoadifferentconfidenceintheoccurrenceofa

certainreading.

includingthefollowingcommonqueries:

TEMPERATURE

FROMFACTWEATHER

WHERETOTALCONFIDENCE>0.6

GROUPBYLOCATIONID

average temperature measure where the degree of confidence

isgreaterthan60%.

TEMPERATURE],

AVG(HUMIDITY)AS[AVERAGEHUMIDITY]

FROMFACTWEATHERINNERJOINDIMTIME

ONFACTWEATHER.TIMEID=DIMTIME.TIMEID

GROUPBYSEASON

rarchy and computes the average temperature and humidity

foreachseason.TheresultofQ2canbefurtherusedtoanalyze

the temperature and humidity values along different seasons

throughouttheyear.

riescanthusbeefficientlyansweredusingtheschemainFig.3.

Fig.3.AustarSchemaforWeatherData

5. CONCLUSIONS AND FUTURE WORK

Inthispaperwepresentapioneersteptowardsdesigningun

certain data warehouses. Our approach is capable of handling

bothfuzzyandprobabilisticmeasures.Forthefuzzyvalueswe

use the membership function and for the probabilistic values

weusetheconfidenceintervalforGaussianrandomprocesses.

Weproposeanuncertainstarschemaframeworkthatisableto

capture the uncertainty feature of the measures stored in the

facttable.Forfutureworkwetargettoconsiderawiderrange

of distributions and to investigate the effect for our proposed

modelontheminingprocess.

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HodaM.O.Mokhtar

Is currently an assistant professor in the Information Sys

tems Dept., Faculty of Computers and Information, Cairo

University. Dr. Hoda Mokhtar received her PhD in Com

puter Science in 2005 from University of California Santa

Barbara. She received her MSc and BSc in 2000 and 1997

resp. from the Computer Engineering Dept., Faculty of En

gineering CairoUniversity. Her research interestsare da

tabasesystems,movingobjectdatabases,datawarehousing,

anddatamining.

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