On the use of PCA for Diagnostics via Novelty Detection: interpretation, practical application notes and recommendation for use



Published Jul 19, 2020
Alessandro Paolo Daga Alessandro Fasana Luigi Garibaldi Stefano Marchesiello


The Principal Component Analysis (PCA) is the simplest eigenvector-based multivariate data analysis tool and dates back to 1901 when Karl Pearson proposed it as a way for finding the best fitting d-1 hyperplane of a system of points in a d-dimensional (Euclidean) space.

Over the time, the PCA evolved in different fields with several different names and with different scopes, but, in its essence, it is always an orthogonal transformation to convert a set of observations of possibly correlated variables into a set of values of linearly uncorrelated variables called principal components.

Generalizing Pearson’s purpose, the knowledge derived by such an analysis is mostly used to find a subspace which effectively and efficiently summarizes the original system of points by losing a minimum amount of information.

In the field of Diagnostics, the fundamental task of detecting damage is basically a binary classification problem which is in many cases tackled via Novelty Detection: an observation is classified as novel if it differs significantly from other observations. Novelty can, in principle, be assessed directly in the original space, but the effectiveness of the estimated novelty can be improved by taking advantage of the PCA.

In this work, the traditional PCA will be compared to a robust modification that is commonly used in the field of diagnostics to face the issue of confounding influences which could affect the novelty-damage correspondence. Comparisons will be made to shed light on the main misleading aspects of PCA, and finally, define a unique, theoretically justified procedure for Diagnostics via Novelty Detection.

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PCA, Novelty Detection, Orthogonal Regression, Mahalanobis Distance, SHM, Vibration Monitoring, Bearings, Diagnostics, Damage Detection, Bridge scale model

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