Published on

November 24, 2023


Unlock the Power of AutoML for Time Series Forecasting

AutoML for time series forecasting offers a powerful and flexible solution for businesses looking to harness the power of data-driven decision-making.
Jeff Matthews
Head of Enablement

Time series forecasting is a crucial component of modern decision-making across most industries. Automating this process using automated machine learning (AutoML) has recently gained immense traction due to its scalability and ease of use, revolutionizing how businesses predict future events and trends with higher accuracy.

Key Takeaways

  • AutoML simplifies the development and deployment of forecasting models.
  • It provides automation, simplification, and precision to foster more accurate predictions.
  • AutoML enables users to easily create accurate time series forecasts with automated selection & training of multiple models simultaneously.
  • Platforms like Akkio simplify AutoML and remove the need for developers.

Understanding AutoML for Time Series Forecasting

A machine learning model being used to forecast time series values

AutoML is a potent technology that streamlines the construction and refinement of machine learning models, including those for time series forecasting. This automation facilitates efficient forecast generation, leveraging of historical data, user input, and engineered features.

AutoML simplifies the development and deployment of forecasting models by streamlining the machine learning workflow. Once a job is submitted, AutoML performs the following steps:

  1. Provisions the necessary compute resources
  2. Applies data preparation steps such as featurization
  3. Builds forecasting models to predict future values.

Key advantages of using AutoML for time series forecasting

One of the primary benefits is the automation it provides, allowing users to:

  • Construct, train, and deploy models with minimal effort
  • Simplify model development
  • Foster more precise predictions
  • Enhance decision-making

Time Series Forecasting Models in AutoML

A machine learning model being used to forecast time series values

AutoML provides a diverse range of forecasting models, from conventional regression models to sophisticated ensemble models. The process of model sweeping allows AutoML to search a set of models and hyperparameters, ranking models according to validation or cross-validation metrics to identify the model with the highest predictive accuracy.

AutoML automates the selection and training of multiple forecasting models, allowing users to create precise time series predictions without extensive data science knowledge.

Ensemble models in AutoML

Ensemble models play a vital role in AutoML for time series forecasting. These models combine the strengths of multiple individual models to generate a more accurate prediction. Ensemble models can capture intricate patterns in the data that single models might miss, leading to improved forecasting accuracy.

AutoML simplifies the deployment of ensemble models. The inherent capabilities allow users to easily train and deploy ensemble models, improving the overall performance of their forecasts and empowering them to make more informed decisions.

Preparing Your Data for AutoML

Proper training data preparation before submission for model training is key to obtaining optimal results with AutoML. This includes:

  • Ensuring that your data is in the correct format
  • Having regularly spaced observations in time
  • Having a sufficient amount of historical data to facilitate model development.

Fulfilling these data requirements assures that trained models are developed using high-quality data, culminating in more precise forecasts and enhanced decision-making.

Data format requirements

The input data for AutoML forecasting requires a tabular format. Additionally, the time series must also be valid. Each variable must have its own column. There should be at least two columns: one for the time axis and another for the target quantity to forecast..

To provide a simple example: consider a CSV file containing monthly sales data for a retail store. The file should have one column representing the date (in a datetime format) and another column representing the sales for that month. Appropriate data formatting facilitates easy data processing by AutoML, resulting in accurate forecasts.

Handling missing values

Missing values in time series data can present challenges for AutoML. To address this issue, AutoML automatically detects and handles missing values during the preprocessing stage. For instance, if a time series has missing observations, AutoML will introduce a new row for the missing observation and impute the value for the quantity column in the same way as other missing values.

AutoML’s effective handling of missing values guarantees models are trained on comprehensive and accurate data, enhancing forecasting performance.

Ensuring sufficient historical data

In order to generate accurate forecasts, it is essential to have a sufficient amount of historical data for each time series. This enables the model to gain insights from past data and enhance its predictive capabilities, ensuring a reliable forecast horizon.

Including more historical data in the model can broaden its scenario range and foster more precise predictions. Moreover, having a larger dataset reduces the risk of overfitting and provides a more comprehensive basis for training the model.

Customizing AutoML for Time Series Forecasting

Visualizing a data scientist customizing AutoML for time series forecasting

AutoML offers a range of customizations for time series forecasting, allowing users to adapt the tool to their specific needs and preferences. Some of these customizations include specifying the target rolling window aggregation, controlling the model space, and customizing feature engineering.

Adapting AutoML to specific user requirements enables optimization of forecasting models, improving performance and accuracy across diverse applications.

Non-stationary time series detection and handling

Non-stationary time series, in which the mean and variance evolve over time, can present challenges for forecasting models in AutoML. To address this issue, AutoML analyzes time series datasets to detect stationarity and applies a differencing transform to minimize the effects of non-stationary behavior.

AutoML’s capability to detect and manage non-stationary time series data guarantees its forecasting models can produce accurate predictions amidst evolving trends.

Automated feature engineering

Feature engineering plays a crucial role in the development of accurate forecasting models. AutoML automates this process by identifying pertinent features, extracting them from the data, and transforming them into a form that is suitable for the model.

The use of automated feature engineering in AutoML saves time and effort, while guaranteeing the utilization of the most relevant features for model training, leading to enhanced forecasting performance.

Training and Evaluating Time Series Models with AutoML

The AutoML pipeline in AzureML offers a range of capabilities for training and evaluating time series models, including sequential training, rolling evaluation inference, and metric calculation. By automating the model training process, AutoML simplifies the development of accurate forecasting models and enables users to easily evaluate and optimize their models for improved performance.

To attain the best results with AutoML, appropriate data preparation, selection of the most suitable model, and performance optimization using the tool’s integrated capabilities is necessary.

Model training and hyperparameter tuning

Training and optimizing models in AutoML encompasses a sequence of steps such as data preparation, feature selection, and hyperparameter tuning. To ensure the quality of the data, it is essential to guarantee that it is clean, suitably formatted, and accurately reflects the issue being addressed.

AutoML’s native hyperparameter optimization capabilities allow users to optimize their selected models by tweaking parameters like learning rate, regularization strength, or the number of hidden layers. This optimization process ensures that the models are trained and deployed with the highest possible accuracy.

Ensemble models and deployment

Ensemble models offer a significant advantage in time series forecasting, as they combine the strengths of multiple individual models to generate more accurate predictions. AutoML’s automation simplifies the deployment of these models, enabling easy training and deployment of ensemble models for enhanced forecasting performance.

Once the best model has been chosen and optimized, it can be deployed in a production environment to generate predictions on new data. By leveraging the power of ensemble models and the simplicity of AutoML deployment, users can make more informed decisions based on accurate forecasts.

Scaling Time Series Forecasting with AutoML

Scaling time series forecasting with AutoML involves the use of advanced features such as the Many-Models solution and hierarchical time series forecasting. These approaches enable users to train and manage a large number of models simultaneously, leading to improved accuracy and scalability.

Businesses can generate accurate forecasts and make better decisions across diverse applications by harnessing the power of AutoML for time series forecasting.

Many-models solution

The Many-Models solution in AutoML is a comprehensive approach to model aggregation that allows for simultaneous training and management of millions of models. This feature enables users to accelerate the training and deployment of time series forecasting models while achieving higher accuracy levels.

Using the Many-Models solution empowers users to exploit the scalability and flexibility of AutoML, facilitating the handling of complex forecasting tasks with ease and efficiency.

Hierarchical time series forecasting

Hierarchical time series forecasting is another advanced feature of AutoML that enables users to model data with a hierarchical structure. By training multiple models on different levels of the hierarchy, AutoML can generate more accurate forecasts by capturing the underlying relationships between various levels of the data.

This method of time series forecasting improves accuracy and scalability, making it a valuable addition to the AutoML toolkit for handling real-world challenges to forecast time series values using a time series forecasting model.

Real-World Applications of AutoML for Time Series Forecasting

AutoML for time series forecasting has numerous real-world applications across a wide range of industries. Some examples include:

By leveraging the power of AutoML and deep learning, businesses can make data-driven decisions that drive growth and success.

As this technology evolves, we anticipate an increase in innovative applications of AutoML for time series forecasting, aiding organizations in staying ahead and navigating the challenges of a progressively data-driven world.

Tools for AutoML

There are several tools available for AutoML, each offering unique features and capabilities. Some of the most popular tools include Google Cloud AutoML, Amazon Sagemaker Autopilot, and Azure Machine Learning Studio. These platforms provide a range of functionalities, from model training and optimization to deployment and management.

Another noteworthy tool is Akkio, a no-code AutoML tool for data analysts that simplifies the process of developing and deploying machine learning models without requiring extensive coding knowledge. You can try it for free today.

Regardless of the selected tool, AutoML holds the potential to transform the approach businesses take towards time series forecasting and decision-making.


In conclusion, AutoML for time series forecasting offers a powerful and flexible solution for businesses looking to harness the power of data-driven decision-making.

By automating the machine learning workflow, AutoML streamlines the process of model development, training, and deployment, enabling users to generate accurate forecasts with minimal effort. As we continue to see advancements in AutoML technology, the potential for its real-world applications grows ever more promising, paving the way for a future where data-driven insights are at the forefront of business success.

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