Drift in a Popular Metal Oxide Sensor Dataset Reveals Limitations for Gas Classification Benchmarks
von Schaik, André
Metal oxide (MOx) gas sensors are a popular choice for many applications, due to their tuneable sensitivity, space efficiency and low cost. Publicly available sensor datasets are particularly valuable for the research community as they accelerate the development and evaluation of novel algorithms for gas sensor data analysis. A dataset published in 2013 by Vergara and colleagues contains recordings from MOx gas sensor arrays in a wind tunnel. It has since become a standard benchmark in the field. Here we report a latent property of this dataset that limits its suitability for gas classification studies. Measurement timestamps show that gases were recorded in separate, temporally clustered batches. Sensor baseline response before gas exposure were strongly correlated with the recording batch, to the extent that baseline response was largely sufficient to infer the gas used in a given trial. Zero-offset baseline compensation did not resolve the issue, since residual short-term drift still contained enough information for gas/trial identification using a machine learning classifier. A subset of the data recorded within a short period of time was minimally affected by drift and suitable for gas classification benchmarking after offset-compensation, but with much reduced classification performance compared to the full dataset. We found 18 publications where this dataset was used without precautions against the circumstances we describe, thus potentially overestimating the accuracy of gas classification algorithms. These observations highlight potential pitfalls in using previously recorded gas sensor data, which may have distorted widely reported results.