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How Poor Data is Killing Your Models and How to Fix It

July 2, 2024
5 mins
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The accuracy and reliability of your AI models hinge on the quality of the data they are trained on. The concept of "Garbage In, Garbage Out" (GIGO) is crucial here—if your data is flawed, your models will be too.

This blog will explore how poorly curated data can undermine AI models, examining the cost of poor data quality, and highlighting common pitfalls in data curation. By the end, you'll have a clear understanding of the importance of data quality and actionable steps to enhance it, ensuring your AI projects succeed.

Understanding GIGO Principal

"Garbage In, Garbage Out" (GIGO) is a foundational concept in computing and data science, emphasizing that the quality of output is determined by the quality of input. Originating from the early days of computing, GIGO underscores that computers, and by extension AI models, will process whatever data they are given. If the input data is flawed—whether due to inaccuracies, incompleteness, or biases—the resulting output will be equally flawed.

AI models rely on large datasets for training; these datasets must be accurate, comprehensive, and free of bias to ensure reliable and fair predictions. For example, a study conducted by MIT Media Lab highlighted the consequences of poor data quality in facial recognition systems. The study found that facial recognition software from major tech companies had significantly higher error rates in identifying darker-skinned and female faces compared to lighter-skinned and male faces. This disparity was primarily due to the training datasets lacking diversity, leading to biased and unreliable outcomes.

The Cost of Poor Data Quality

Impact on Model Accuracy

Poor data quality can drastically reduce model accuracy. Inaccurate, incomplete, or inconsistent data can lead to unreliable predictions, rendering the model ineffective. For example, a healthcare AI system trained on erroneous patient records might misdiagnose conditions, leading to harmful treatment recommendations.

Business Consequences

The financial implications of poor data quality are significant. Companies have lost millions due to flawed AI models making incorrect decisions. For instance, an e-commerce company might lose customers if its recommendation system, based on poor data, suggests irrelevant products.

light-callout-cta Read the case study on How Automotus increased mAP by 20% by improving their dataset with visual data curation to understand the importance of data quality.

Common Pitfalls in Data Curation

Incomplete Data

Incomplete data is a major issue in CV datasets. Missing or insufficient image data can lead to models that fail to generalize well. For instance, if a dataset meant to train a self-driving car's vision system lacks images of certain weather conditions or types of road signs, the system might perform poorly in real-world scenarios where these missing elements are present. 

Data Bias

Bias in data is another critical issue. If training data reflects existing societal biases, the AI model will perpetuate these biases. For instance, an AI system trained on biased criminal justice data might disproportionately target certain demographics.

Outdated Data

CV models trained on images that no longer represent the current environment can become obsolete. For example, a model trained on images of cars from the 1990s might struggle to recognize modern vehicles. Regular updates to datasets are necessary to keep the model relevant and accurate. This is particularly important in rapidly evolving fields such as autonomous driving and retail, where the visual environment changes frequently.

Inconsistent Data

Inconsistent data can arise when images are collected from multiple sources with varying formats, resolutions, and labeling conventions. This inconsistency can confuse the model and lead to poor performance. For example, images labeled with different naming conventions or annotation styles can result in a model that misunderstands or misclassifies objects. Standardizing data collection and annotation processes is key to maintaining consistency across the dataset.

Annotation Errors

Errors in image annotation, such as incorrect labels or poorly defined bounding boxes, can severely impact model training. Annotations serve as the ground truth for supervised learning, and inaccuracies here can lead to models learning incorrect associations. Rigorous quality control and verification processes are essential to minimize annotation errors.

Imbalanced Classes

Class imbalance, where some categories are underrepresented in the dataset, is a frequent issue in datasets. For instance, in an object detection dataset, if there are significantly more images of cars than bicycles, the model may become biased towards detecting cars while neglecting bicycles. This imbalance can lead to poor performance on underrepresented classes. Techniques such as data augmentation, oversampling of minority classes, or using class weights during training can help address this issue.

Using Encord for Data Curation

Encord is a data development platform for computer vision and multimodal AI teams, built to help you manage, clean, and curate your data. With Encord, you can streamline your labeling and workflow management processes, ensuring consistent and high-quality annotations. It also provides robust tools to evaluate model performance, helping you identify and rectify issues early on. With Encord's comprehensive suite of features, you can overcome common pitfalls in data curation and enhance the accuracy and reliability of your AI models.

Curious to learn more about how poor data quality can impact your AI models and how Encord can help?

light-callout-cta Watch the webinar Garbage In Garbage Out: Poorly Curated Data is Killing Your Models for a comprehensive understanding of effective data curation strategies, real-world examples, and practical tips to enhance your model performance

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Written by
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Akruti Acharya

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Frequently asked questions
  • Data curation ensures that your data is accurate, relevant, and unbiased. Proper curation leads to better model performance, while poor curation can cause errors, biases, and inefficiencies in your AI applications.

  • Common issues include incomplete data, data bias, outdated information, inconsistent annotations, and imbalanced class distributions. Each of these can negatively impact model accuracy and fairness.

  • Poor data quality can lead to inaccurate predictions, biased outcomes, and reduced model effectiveness. It can also result in financial losses and damage to your organization’s reputation.

  • Strategies include comprehensive data collection, regular updates, standardizing annotation processes, and using tools for data cleaning and bias detection. Ensuring data diversity and consistency is also crucial.