Compressing Tabular Data via Latent Variable Estimation
Proceedings of the 40th International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 202:25174-25208, 2023.
Data used for analytics and machine learning often take the form of tables with categorical entries. We introduce a family of lossless compression algorithms for such data that proceed in four steps: (i) Estimate latent variables associated to rows and columns; (ii) Partition the table in blocks according to the row/column latents; (iii) Apply a sequential (e.g. Lempel-Ziv) coder to each of the blocks; (iv) Append a compressed encoding of the latents. We evaluate this approach on several benchmark datasets, and study optimal compression in a probabilistic model for tabular data, whereby latent values are independent and table entries are conditionally independent given the latent values. We prove that the model has a well defined entropy rate and satisfies an asymptotic equipartition property. We also prove that classical compression schemes such as Lempel-Ziv and finite-state encoders do not achieve this rate. On the other hand, the latent estimation strategy outlined above achieves the optimal rate.