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Project Owner : Shyam.C
Created Date : Thu, 15/03/2012 - 22:24
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The k-medoids algorithm is a clustering algorithm related to the k-means algorithm and the medoidshift algorithm. Both the k-means and k-medoids algorithms are partitional (breaking the dataset up into groups) and both attempt to minimize the distance between points labeled to be in a cluster and a point designated as the center of that cluster. In contrast to the k-means algorithm, k-medoids chooses datapoints as centers (medoids or exemplars).

k-medoid is a classical partitioning technique of clustering that clusters the data set of n objects into k clusters known a priori. A useful tool for determining k is the silhouette.

It is more robust to noise and outliers as compared to k-means because it minimizes a sum of pairwise dissimilarities instead of a sum of squared Euclidean distances.

medoid can be defined as the object of a cluster, whose average dissimilarity to all the objects in the cluster is minimal i.e. it is a most centrally located point in the cluster.


The most common realisation of k-medoid clustering is the Partitioning Around Medoids (PAM) algorithm and is as follows:

  1. Initialize: randomly select k of the n data points as the medoids
  2. Associate each data point to the closest medoid. ("closest" here is defined using any valid distance metric, most commonly Euclidean distanceManhattan distance or Minkowski distance)
  3. For each medoid m
    1. For each non-medoid data point o
      1. Swap m and o and compute the total cost of the configuration
  4. Select the configuration with the lowest cost.
  5. repeat steps 2 to 5 until there is no change in the medoid.


Cluster analysis or clustering is the task of assigning a set of objects into groups (called clusters) so that the objects in the same cluster are more similar (in some sense or another) to each other than to those in other clusters.

Clustering is a main task of explorative data mining, and a common technique for statistical data analysis used in many fields, includingmachine learningpattern recognitionimage analysisinformation retrieval, and bioinformatics.

Cluster analysis itself is not one specific algorithm, but the general task to be solved. It can be achieved by various algorithms that differ significantly in their notion of what constitutes a cluster and how to efficiently find them. Popular notions of clusters include groups with lowdistances among the cluster members, dense areas of the data space, intervals or particular statistical distributions. Clustering can therefore be formulated as a multi-objective optimization problem. The appropriate clustering algorithm and parameter settings (including values such as the distance function to use, a density threshold or the number of expected clusters) depend on the individual data set and intended use of the results. Cluster analysis as such is not an automatic task, but an iterative process of knowledge discovery or interactive multi-objective optimization that involves trial and failure. It will often be necessary to modify preprocessing and parameters until the result achieves the desired properties.



Medoids are representative objects of a data set or a cluster with a data set whose average dissimilarity to all the objects in the cluster is minimal.

 Medoids are similar in concept tomeans or centroids, but medoids are always members of the data set. Medoids are most commonly used on data when a mean or centroid cannot be defined such as 3-D trajectories or in the gene expression context.

 The term is used in computer science in data clustering algorithms.

A common application of the medoid is the k-medoids clustering algorithm, which is similar to the k-means algorithm but works when a mean or centroid is not definable. This algorithm basically works as follows. First, a set of medoids is chosen at random. Second, the distances to the other points are computed. Third, data are clustered according to the medoid they are most similar to. Fourth, the medoid set is optimized via an iterative process.

Note that a medoid is not equivalent to a median or a geometric median. A median is only defined on 1-dimensional data, and it only minimizes dissimilarity to other points for a specific distance metric (Manhattan norm). A geometric median is defined in any dimension, but is not necessarily a point from within the original dataset.

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