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What is Synthetic Data Generation?

Creating synthetic data, also known as fake or mock data, is an increasingly popular way to expedite the development of machine learning models and other predictive analytics applications. Synthetic data generation involves generating and annotating artificial or fake, data to replace real-world values for use in training and validation of a model. This is often done to preserve the integrity of the model and avoid any skewing or distortion that could be caused by using real-world data that may have been subject to bias, omissions or anomalies.

There are a variety of tools and techniques used to create synthetic data, ranging from the simple (drawing numbers from a distribution) to more advanced, deep learning-based methods like variation auto encoders and generative adversarial networks. Generative models are unsupervised learning algorithms that can learn the statistical patterns and relationships in a dataset then generate new data with similar statistical properties and characteristics. In many cases, this can help a model improve performance by mimicking the natural dynamics of the data.

Synthetic Data Generation

The most common use of synthetic data is to generate a dataset that is similar in structure to the original dataset. This is called data augmentation, and it is commonly used in fields that require high computing power to process, such as computer vision and image processing. This technique allows the data scientist to focus on analyzing the model instead of spending time preparing the underlying real-world data for analysis.

Other uses of synthetic data include generating large amounts of data for use in machine learning algorithm training and testing, and using it to replace real-world data that requires special handling or protection, such as medical or financial information. This is especially useful for sensitive data sets that may not be available to the business, and it helps companies comply with privacy laws. It is also a way to improve data quality by replacing missing or incorrect values with synthetic ones, a process known as imputation.

While there are several benefits to using synthetic data, it is important to understand the risks associated with this type of data. Some of the most significant risks are related to privacy, including ensuring that any information that is replaced with synthetic data is anonym zed. Another risk is introducing error into the data. To minimize these risks, it is recommended that businesses assess the amount of missing data in their datasets and choose an appropriate replacement method.


While a moderate amount of missing data is not an issue, excessive amounts can have a negative impact on the accuracy and performance of the model. Additionally, a data scientist should take care to remove any highly correlated fields from the dataset. For example, if a long categorical field can be broken down into simpler integer labels, or if a numeric field can be grouped into smaller bins with higher levels of precision, then this should be done. In addition, any derived fields should be removed if they are not necessary for the analysis.



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