Predicting the Future with Amazon Forecast

Organizations across industries forecast future outcomes such as product demand, resource requirements, and financial performance in order to maximize the efficiency and productivity they can achieve with their business. Enter Amazon Forecast, a fully managed forecasting service that leverages the power of machine learning to help you quickly generate accurate and actionable forecasts.

What is Amazon Forecast?

Amazon Forecast is a new service, recently released by AWS, that helps you with your time series data so that you can forecast what’s going to happen in the future. Say for example you work for an amusement park and you’ve been collecting data for many years and you want to predict how many people will show up on a specific day. That’s what forecasting is – it takes in a lot of the data that you have and can take other parameters, whether it may be something like school holidays or something else, and predict the number of people that will attend the park on this given day. You use that time series data to get an estimate.

How to Get Started with Amazon Forecast

AWS has made these AI/ML services like Amazon Forecast easy for anyone to jump in and get started. The first step is to prepare your data. Just like other services like Amazon Personalize, you need to have a specifically formatted .csv file that you’ve created that has the right columns and the right schema for the service to recognize and parse. Then you’re able to put that file onto Amazon S3, and call the Amazon Forecast service (pointing at the .csv file) to give you the right forecast given the data that you’ve provided. You can accomplish this via your normal toolsets like the AWS command line interface, Python libraries, etc.

Dataset Types Supported by Amazon Forecast

Amazon Forecast was developed by Amazon for its current retail website in order to do supply chain prediction and management as well as forecasting in the retail domain. They’ve put together a lot of information out there and a lot of data types that correspond to things in that field.

If you consider supply chain, Amazon Forecast can analyze your supply levels and predict when you’ll be running low, allowing you to determine when to place an order for materials. In retail, Amazon Forecast can look at current inventory levels and predict whether or not you will need more inventory to meet future demand. In workforce management, say for a fast food chain, Amazon Forecast can predict how many employees will be needed to meet the demand for upcoming days based on demand expectations.

So it’s got the right domains that let you predict that workforce. Not only will it let you predict the retail pieces that you need – how much supply or how many people you need to work, you can also start to do cash flow and revenue analysis. Hence, it covers all aspects of business so that you can enable it across your entire enterprise.

Back End Operation & Customization Flexibility

To enable your whole enterprise, Amazon Forecast has to have a lot of different algorithms that are built in. With each of those algorithms, you’ll be doing tasks that normally a data scientist would be doing – training, testing, and verifying that the outcome looks realistic. You always want to double check that things are working right. For instance, you don’t want it to say that you need 10,000 employees on Tuesday. It’s important to always verify that the algorithm is working.

Amazon Forecast has several different algorithms built in – including a deep AR learning algorithm and a profit algorithm. With each of these you can go in and customize the hyperparameters to tune it specifically to your environment and to your business.

Interested in leveraging Amazon Forecast? Contact our team today to learn how Amazon Forecast can help you leverage machine learning to quickly and easily generate forecasts with up to 50% higher accuracy, providing a clearer picture of your business’s future requirements and performance.

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