Time-series of count data occur in many different contexts, including Internet navigation logs, freeway traffic monitoring, and security logs associated with buildings. In this article we describe a framework for detecting anomalous events in such data using an unsupervised learning approach. Normal periodic behavior is modeled via a time-varying Poisson process model, which in turn is modulated by a hidden Markov process that accounts for bursty events. We outline a Bayesian framework for learning the parameters of this model from count time-series. Two large real-world datasets of time-series counts are used as testbeds to validate the approach, consisting of freeway traffic data and logs of people entering and exiting a building. We show that the proposed model is significantly more accurate at detecting known events than a more traditional threshold-based technique. We also describe how the model can be used to investigate different degrees of periodicity in the data, including systematic day-of-week and time-of-day effects, and to make inferences about different aspects of events such as number of vehicles or people involved. The results indicate that the Markov-modulated Poisson framework provides a robust and accurate framework for adaptively and autonomously learning how to separate unusual bursty events from traces of normal human activity.
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