Using the Identity column for Oracle Data Miner

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If you are a user of the Oracle Data Miner tool (the workflow data mining tool that is part of SQL Developer), then you will have noticed that for many of the algorithms you can specify a Case Id attribute along with, say, the target attribute.

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The idea is that you have one attribute that is a unique identifier for each case record. This may or may not be the case in your data model and you may have a multiple attribute primary key or case record identifier.

But what is the Case Id field used for in Oracle Data Miner?

Based on the documentation this field does not need to have a value. But it is recommended that you do identify an attribute for the Case Id, as this will allow for reproducible results. What this means is that if we run our workflow today and again in a few days time, on the exact same data, we should get the same results. So the Case Id allows this to happen. But how? Well it looks like the attribute used or specified for the Case Id is used as part of the Hashing algorithm to partition the data into a train and test data set, for classification problems.

So if you don’t have a single attribute case identifier in your data set, then you need to create one. There are a few options open to you to do this.

  • Create one: write some code that will generate a unique identifier for each of your case records based on some defined rule.
  • Use a sequence: and update the records to use this sequence.
  • Use ROWID: use the unique row identifier value. You can write some code to populate this value into an attribute. Or create a view on the table containing the case records and add a new attribute that will use the ROWID. But if you move the data, then the next time you use the view then you will be getting different ROWIDs and that in turn will mean we may have different case records going into our test and training data sets. So our workflows will generate different results. Not what we want.
  • Use ROWNUM: This is kind of like using the ROWID. Again we can have a view that will select ROWNUM for each record. Again we may have the same issues but if we have our data ordered in a way that ensures we get the records returned in the same order then this approach is OK to use.
  • Use Identity Column: In Oracle 12c we have a new feature called Identify Column. This kind of acts like a sequence but we can defined an attribute in a table to be an Identity Column, and as records are inserted into the the data (in our scenario our case table) then this column will automatically generate a unique number for our data. Again if we need to repopulate the case table, you will need to drop and recreate the table to get the Identity Column to reset, otherwise the newly inserted records will start with the next number of the Identity Column

Here is an example of using the Identity Column in a case table.

CREATE TABLE case_table (
id_column	NUMBER GENERATED ALWAYS AS IDENTITY,
affinity_card 	NUMBER,
age		NUMBER,
cust_gender	VARCHAR2(5),
country_name	VARCHAR2(20)
...
);

You can now use this Identity Column as the Case Id in your Oracle Data Miner workflows.

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