Dustin Lennon

Dustin Lennon

Applied Scientist

point process bayesian multiple realizations

Personalized Point Processes: A Simple Bayesian Analysis

This post describes a homogeneous Poisson process using a Gamma conjugate prior that can be used to estimate a pooled, per-subject intensity given a collection of realizations.

Dustin Lennon
February 2021
February 2021



A homogeneous Poisson process is the simplest way to describe events that arrive in time. Here, we are interested in a collection of realizations. An example is user transactions in a system. Over time, we expect each user to produce a sequence of transaction events, and we would like to characterize the rate of these events on a per-user basis. In particular, users with more data should expect a more personalized characterization. Statistically, this can be accomplished using a Bayesian framework.



Let \(i \in \mathcal{I}\) denote a particular user in the set of all users, and \(X_i = (X_{i1}, \dots, X_{i n_i})\), the transaction times of the \(i\)th user.

We use \(X_i\) to denote the random variable; \(x_i\), the data, a realization of the random variable.

We employ a parenthesized superscript to denote a quantity across all \(n\) users. Thus, \(X^{(n)} = (X_1, \dots, X_n)\) is the random variable describing the transaction times of all \(n\) users.

\(f_\theta(\cdot)\) and \(F_\theta(\cdot)\) are a probability density and probability distribution parameterized by \(\theta\). We may also write \(f(\cdot \vert \theta)\) to indicate that the density is conditioned on \(\theta\).

We use \(\lambda_\theta(\cdot)\) to denote the intensity function.

\(L_i(\theta_i; X_i)\) is the likelihood of \(\theta_i\) associated with the transaction times of the \(i\)th user. In our context, where we have realizations across multiple users, the subscript, \(i\), indicates the per-user model parameterization.

\(T_i\) is the data collection period associated with the \(i\)th user.

General Results

General Results

For a Poisson process, where the multiple realizations are independent, we have the following results:

Per-user Likelihood

\[ L_i(\theta_i; X_i) = \exp \left[ -\int_0^{T_i} \lambda_{\theta_i}(u) du \right] \prod_{j=1}^{n_i} \lambda_{\theta_i}(x_{ij}) \]

Full Likelihood

\[ L(\theta^{(n)}; X^{(n)}) = \prod_{i=1}^n L_i(\theta_i; X_i) \]

Prior / Posterior

\[ \pi_{\gamma} \left( \theta^{(n)} \vert X^{(n)} \right) \propto \prod_{i=1}^n L_i(\theta_i; X_i) \pi_{\gamma}(\theta_i) \]

where the \(\gamma\) subscript denotes hyperparameters which are shared across all users.

Marginal Posterior

Without loss of generality, suppose we are interested in the parameters associated with the first user, i.e., \(\theta_1\).

\[ \begin{align*} \pi_{\gamma} \left( \theta_1 \vert X^{(n)} \right) & = \int \pi_{\gamma} \left( \theta^{(n)} \vert X^{(n)} \right) d \theta_2 \dots d \theta_n \\ & \propto L_1(\theta_1; X_1) \pi_{\gamma}(\theta_1) \end{align*} \]

Marginal Likelihood

The marginal likelihood describes the relationship between the data and the hyperparameters, \(\gamma\), after integrating out the user-level parameters. This is useful for an empirical Bayes approach as well as assessing model fit.

\[ \begin{align*} f_{\gamma}\left( X^{(n)} \right) & = \int f\left( X^{(n)} \vert \theta^{(n)} \right) \pi_{\gamma} \left( \theta^{(n)} \right) d \theta^{(n)} \\ & = \prod_{i=1}^n \int L_i(\theta_i; X_i) \pi_{\gamma}(\theta_i) d \theta_i \end{align*} \]

Homogeneous Poisson Process

Homogeneous Poisson Process

A homogeneous Poisson process is characterized by a constant intensity function. Hence, \(\lambda_{\theta_i}(t) = \lambda_i\); and \(\theta_i = \left\{ \lambda_i \right\}\).

Per-user Likelihood

\[ L_i(\theta_i; X_i) = \exp \left( -\lambda_i T_i + n_i \log \lambda_i \right) \]

Conjugate Prior

A gamma distribution is a compatible conjugate prior given the functional form of the likelihood.

\[ \begin{gather*} \lambda_i \sim \Gamma(\alpha, \beta) \\ \pi(\lambda_i) = \exp \left( -\beta \lambda_i + (\alpha-1) \log \lambda_i \right) c(\alpha,\beta) \end{gather*} \]


\[ \pi(\lambda_i \vert X_i) \propto \exp \left( -(\beta + T_i) \lambda_i + (n_i + \alpha-1) \log \lambda_i \right) c(\alpha,\beta) \]


\[ \left[ \lambda_i \vert X_i \right] \sim \Gamma(n_i + \alpha, T_i + \beta) \]

Marginal Likelihood

\[ \begin{align*} f\left( X^{(n)} \vert \alpha, \beta \right) & = \int \prod_{i=1}^n \exp \left( -(\beta + T_i) \lambda_i + (n_i + \alpha-1) \log \lambda_i \right) \, c(\alpha,\beta) \, d \lambda^{(n)} \\ & = \prod_{i=1}^n \left[ \frac{ \beta^{\alpha} }{ \Gamma(\alpha) } \frac{ \Gamma(n_i + \alpha) }{ (\beta + T_i)^{n_i + \alpha} } \right] \end{align*} \]

Empirical Bayes Calculations

The log marginal likelihood is:

\[ \log f\left( X^{(n)} \vert \alpha, \beta \right) = \sum_{i=1}^n \left[ \alpha \log \beta + \log \Gamma(n_i + \alpha) - \log \Gamma(\alpha) - (n_i + \alpha) \log (\beta + T_i) \right] \]

and the derivatives:

\[ \begin{align*} \frac{ \partial \log f }{ \partial \alpha } & = \sum_{i=1}^n \left[ \log \beta + \psi(n_i + \alpha) - \psi(\alpha) - \log(\beta + T_i) \right] \\ \frac{ \partial \log f }{ \partial \beta } & = \sum_{i=1}^n \left[ \frac{ \alpha }{ \beta } - \frac{ n_i + \alpha }{ \beta + T_i } \right] \end{align*} \]

where \(\psi\) is the digamma function.