Spark : get_dummies : Convert categorical variable into dummy/indicator variables


Apache Spark stands out as a powerhouse, offering unparalleled scalability and performance. However, its native functionalities might not always align perfectly with the familiar tools and workflows of data scientists. One such instance is the handling of categorical variables, a common task in data preprocessing. Fortunately, with the integration of the Pandas API in Spark, tasks like one-hot encoding can be accomplished seamlessly, combining the best of both worlds.

Understanding One-Hot Encoding

Before delving into the specifics of implementing one-hot encoding with Pandas API on Spark, it’s essential to grasp the concept itself. One-hot encoding is a technique used to convert categorical variables into a binary representation, where each category becomes a column with binary values indicating the presence or absence of that category in the original data. This process is crucial for various machine learning algorithms that require numerical input.

Leveraging Pandas API on Spark

Spark’s integration with the Pandas API brings the familiarity and ease of Pandas operations to the distributed computing environment of Spark. One of the most commonly used Pandas functions for one-hot encoding is get_dummies(). Let’s explore how we can utilize this function within Spark.

Example: Applying get_dummies() on Spark DataFrames

Consider a scenario where we have a Spark DataFrame containing categorical variables representing different fruits and their colors. We aim to perform one-hot encoding on the ‘fruit’ column.

# Import necessary libraries
from pyspark.sql import SparkSession
import pandas as pd
# Create SparkSession
spark = SparkSession.builder \
    .appName("Pandas API on Spark") \
# Sample data
data = [("apple", "red"), ("banana", "yellow"), ("apple", "green"), ("orange", "orange")]
columns = ["fruit", "color"]
# Create Spark DataFrame
df = spark.createDataFrame(data, columns)
# Convert Spark DataFrame to Pandas DataFrame
pandas_df = df.toPandas()
# Apply one-hot encoding using Pandas API
encoded_df = pd.get_dummies(pandas_df['fruit'])
# Display encoded DataFrame


   apple  banana  orange
0      1       0       0
1      0       1       0
2      1       0       0
3      0       0       1

In this example, the get_dummies() function efficiently converted the categorical variable ‘fruit’ into indicator variables. Each fruit now has its own column with binary values indicating its presence in the original data.

Author: user