Temporal signals to images: Monitoring the condition of industrial assets with deep learning image processing algorithms

The ability to detect anomalies in time series is considered highly valuable in numerous application domains. The sequential nature of time series objects is responsible for an additional feature complexity, ultimately requiring specialized approaches in order to solve the task. Essential characteristics of time series, situated outside the time domain, are often difficult to capture with state-of-the-art anomaly detection methods when no transformations have been applied to the time series. Inspired by the success of deep learning methods in computer vision, several studies have proposed transforming time series into image-like representations, used as inputs for deep learning models, and have led to very promising results in classification tasks. In this paper, we first review the signal to image encoding approaches found in the literature. Second, we propose modifications to some of their original formulations to make them more robust to the variability in large datasets. Third, we compare them on the basis of a common unsupervised task to demonstrate how the choice of the encoding can impact the results when used in the same deep learning architecture. We thus provide a comparison between six encoding algorithms with and without the proposed modifications. The selected encoding methods are Gramian Angular Field, Markov Transition Field, recurrence plot, grey scale encoding, spectrogram, and scalogram. We also compare the results achieved with the raw signal used as input for another deep learning model. We demonstrate that some encodings have a competitive advantage and might be worth considering within a deep learning framework. The comparison is performed on a dataset collected and released by Airbus SAS, containing highly complex vibration measurements from real helicopter flight tests. The different encodings provide competitive results for anomaly detection.

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