Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

*David Woodruff, Peilin Zhong, Samson Zhou*

Clustering is an important technique for identifying structural information in large-scale data analysis, where the underlying dataset may be too large to store. In many applications, recent data can provide more accurate information and thus older data past a certain time is expired. The sliding window model captures these desired properties and thus there has been substantial interest in clustering in the sliding window model. In this paper, we give the first algorithm that achieves near-optimal $(1+\varepsilon)$-approximation to $(k,z)$-clustering in the sliding window model. Our algorithm uses $\frac{k}{\min(\varepsilon^4,\varepsilon^{2+z})}\,\text{polylog}\frac{n\Delta}{\varepsilon}$ words of space when the points are from $[\Delta]^d$, thus significantly improving on works by Braverman et. al. (SODA 2016), Borassi et. al. (NeurIPS 2021), and Epasto et. al. (SODA 2022).Along the way, we develop a data structure for clustering called an online coreset, which outputs a coreset not only for the end of a stream, but also for all prefixes of the stream. Our online coreset samples $\frac{k}{\min(\varepsilon^4,\varepsilon^{2+z})}\,\text{polylog}\frac{n\Delta}{\varepsilon}$ points from the stream. We then show that any online coreset requires $\Omega\left(\frac{k}{\varepsilon^2}\log n\right)$ samples, which shows a separation between the problem of constructing an offline coreset, i.e., constructing online coresets is strictly harder. Our results also extend to general metrics on $[\Delta]^d$ and are near-optimal in light of a $\Omega\left(\frac{k}{\varepsilon^{2+z}}\right)$ lower bound for the size of an offline coreset.

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