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In the ever-evolving landscape of natural language processing (NLP), embedding techniques have played a pivotal role in enhancing the capabilities of language models.


The birth of word embeddings


Before venturing into the large number of embedding techniques that have emerged in the past few years, we must first understand the problem that led to the creation of such techniques.


Word embeddings were created to address the absence of efficient text representations for NLP models. Since NLP techniques operate on textual data, which inherently cannot be directly integrated into machine learning models designed to process numerical inputs, a fundamental question arose: how can we convert text into a format compatible with these models?


Basic approaches like one-hot encoding and Bag-of-Words (BoW) were employed in the initial phases of NLP development. However, these methods were eventually discarded due to their evident shortcomings in capturing the contextual and semantic nuances of language. Each word was treated as an isolated unit, without understanding its relationship with other words or its usage in different contexts.


embedding techniques
Popular word embedding techniques




In 2013, Google presented a new technique to overcome the shortcomings of the previous word embedding techniques, called Word2Vec. It represents words in a continuous vector space, better known as an embedding space, where semantically similar words are located close to each other.


This contrasted with traditional methods, like one-hot encoding, which represents words as sparse, high-dimensional vectors. The dense vector representations generated by Word2Vec had several advantages, including the ability to capture semantic relationships, support vector arithmetic (e.g., “king” – “man” + “woman” = “queen”), and improve the performance of various NLP tasks like language modeling, sentiment analysis, and machine translation.


Transition to GloVe and FastText


The success of Word2Vec paved the way for further innovations in the realm of word embeddings. The Global Vectors for Word Representation (GloVe) model, introduced by Stanford researchers in 2014, aimed to leverage global statistical information about word co-occurrences.


GloVe demonstrated improved performance over Word2Vec in capturing semantic relationships. Unlike Word2Vec, GloVe considers the entire corpus when learning word vectors, leading to a more global understanding of word relationships.


Fast forward to 2016, Facebook’s FastText introduced a significant shift by considering sub-word information. Unlike traditional word embeddings, FastText represented words as bags of character n-grams. This sub-word information allowed FastText to capture morphological and semantic relationships in a more detailed manner, especially for languages with rich morphology and complex word formations. This approach was particularly beneficial for handling out-of-vocabulary words and improving the representation of rare words.


The rise of transformer models 


The real game-changer in the evolution of embedding techniques came with the advent of the Transformer architecture. Introduced by researchers at Google in the form of the Attention is All You Need paper in 2017, Transformers demonstrated remarkable efficiency in capturing long-range dependencies in sequences.


The architecture laid the foundation for state-of-the-art models like OpenAI’s GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) series and BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers). Hence, the traditional understanding of embedding techniques is revamped with new solutions.


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Impact of embedding techniques on language models


The embedding techniques mentioned above have significantly impacted the performance and capabilities of LLMs. Pre-trained models like GPT-3 and BERT leverage these embeddings to understand natural language context, semantics, and syntactic structures. The ability to capture context allows these models to excel in a wide range of NLP tasks, including sentiment analysis, text summarization, and question-answering.


Imagine the sentence: “The movie was not what I expected, but the plot twist at the end made it incredible.”


Traditional models might struggle with the negation of “not what I expected.” Word embeddings could capture some sentiment but might miss the subtle shift in sentiment caused by the positive turn of events in the latter part of the sentence.


In contrast, LLMs with contextualized embeddings can consider the entire sentence and comprehend the nuanced interplay of positive and negative sentiments. They grasp that the initial negativity is later counteracted by the positive twist, resulting in a more accurate sentiment analysis.


Advantages of embeddings in LLMs


  • Contextual Understanding: LLMs equipped with embeddings comprehend the context in which words appear, allowing for a more nuanced interpretation of sentiment in complex sentences.


  • Semantic Relationships: Word embeddings capture semantic relationships between words, enabling the model to understand the subtleties and nuances of language. 


  • Handling Ambiguity: Contextual embeddings help LLMs handle ambiguous language constructs, such as negations or sarcasm, contributing to improved accuracy in sentiment analysis.


  • Transfer Learning: The pre-training of LLMs with embeddings on vast datasets allows them to generalize well to various downstream tasks, including sentiment analysis, with minimal task-specific data.


How are enterprises using embeddings in their LLM processes?


In light of recent advancements, enterprises are keen on harnessing the robust capabilities of Large Language Models (LLMs) to construct comprehensive Software as a Service (SAAS) solutions. Nevertheless, LLMs come pre-trained on extensive datasets, and to tailor them to specific use cases, fine-tuning on proprietary data becomes essential.


This process can be laborious. To streamline this intricate task, the widely embraced Retrieval Augmented Generation (RAG) technique comes into play. RAG involves retrieving pertinent information from an external source, transforming it to a format suitable for LLM comprehension, and then inputting it into the LLM to generate textual output.


This innovative approach enables the fine-tuning of LLMs with knowledge beyond their original training scope. In this process, you need an efficient way to store, retrieve, and ingest data into your LLMs to use it accurately for your given use case.


One of the most common ways to store and search over unstructured data is to embed it and store the resulting embedding vectors, and then at query time to embed the unstructured query and retrieve the embedding vectors that are ‘most similar’ to the embedded query.  Hence, without embedding techniques, your RAG approach will be impossible.


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Understanding the creation of embeddings


Much like a machine learning model, an embedding model undergoes training on extensive datasets. Various models available can generate embeddings for you, and each model is distinct. You can find the top embedding models here.


It is unclear what makes an embedding model perform better than others. However, a common way to select one for your use case is to evaluate how many words a model can take in without breaking down. There’s a limit to how many tokens a model can handle at once, so you’ll need to split your data into chunks that fit within the limit. Hence, choosing a suitable model is a good starting point for your use case.


Creating embeddings with Azure OpenAI is a matter of a few lines of code. To create embeddings of a simple sentence like The food was delicious and the waiter…, you can execute the following code blocks:


  • First, import AzureOpenAI from OpenAI


  • Load in your environment variables


  • Create your Azure OpenAI client.


  • Create your embeddings


And you’re done! It’s really that simple to generate embeddings for your data. If you want to generate embeddings for an entire dataset, you can follow along with the great notebook provided by OpenAI itself here.



To sum it up!


The evolution of embedding techniques has revolutionized natural language processing, empowering language models with a deeper understanding of context and semantics. From Word2Vec to Transformer models, each advancement has enriched LLM capabilities, enabling them to excel in various NLP tasks.


Enterprises leverage techniques like Retrieval Augmented Generation, facilitated by embeddings, to tailor LLMs for specific use cases. Platforms like Azure OpenAI offer straightforward solutions for generating embeddings, underscoring their importance in NLP development. As we forge ahead, embeddings will remain pivotal in driving innovation and expanding the horizons of language understanding.

February 8, 2024

Data erasure is a software-based process that involves data sanitization or in plain words ‘data wiping’ so that no traces of data remain recoverable. This helps with the prevention of data leakage and the protection of sensitive information like trade secrets, intellectual property, or customer information.  

By 2025, it is estimated that data will grow up to 175 Zettabytes, and with great data comes great responsibility. Data plays a pivotal role in both personal and professional lives. May it be confidential records or family photos, data security is important and must be always endorsed.   

As the volume of digital information continues to grow, so does the need for safeguarding and securing data. Key data breach statistics show that 21% of all folders in a typical company are open to everyone leading to malicious attacks indicating a rise in data leakage and 51% criminal incidents.



Data erasure explanation
Source: Dev.to

Understanding data erasure 

Data erasure is a fundamental practice in the field of data security and privacy. It involves the permanent destruction of data from storage devices like hard disks, solid-state devices, or any other digital media through software or other means.  


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This practice ensures that data remains completely unrecoverable through any data recovery methods while the device remains reusable (in case software is being used). Data erasure works in regard to an individual person who is disposing of a personal device as well as organizations handling sensitive business information. It guarantees responsible technology disposal.  


The science behind data erasure 

Data erasure is also known as ‘overwriting’, it involves a process of writing on data with a series of 0s and 1s making it unreadable and undiscoverable. The overwriting process varies in the number of passes and patterns used. The type of overwriting depends on multiple factors like the nature of the storage device, the type of data at hand, and the level of security that is needed.  

Data deletion vs data erasure
Data Erasure – Source: Medium


The ‘number of passes’ refers to the number of times the overwriting process is repeated for a certain storage device. Each pass essentially overwrites the old data with new data. The greater the number of passes, the more thorough the data erasure process is making it increasingly difficult to recover the demolished data.  

Patterns’ can make data recovery extremely challenging. This is the reason why different sequences and patterns are written to the data during each pass. In essence, the data erasure process can be customized to cater to different types of scenarios depending upon the sensitivity of the data being erased. Moreover, data erasure is also used to verify whether the erasure process was successful.  

Read more -> Master data security in warehousing 

The need for data erasure 

Confidentiality of business data, prevention of data leakage, and regulation with compliance are some of the reasons we need methods like data erasure especially when someone is relocating, repurposing, or putting a device to rest. Traditional methods like data deletion make the data unavailable to the user but provide the privilege of recovering it through different software.

Likewise, the destruction of physical devices renders the device completely useless. For this purpose, a software-based erasure method is required. Some crucial factors that drive the need are listed below:  


Protection of sensitive information:  

Protecting sensitive information from unauthorized access is one of the primary reasons for having data erasure. Data branches or leakage of confidential information like customer information, trade secrets, or proprietary information can lead to severe consequences.  

Thus, when the amount of data begins to get unmanageable and enterprises look forward to disposing of a portion of it, it is always advisable to destroy the data in a way that it is not recoverable for misuse later. Proper data erasure techniques help to mitigate the risk associated with cybercrimes.  


Read more -> Data privacy and data anonymization techniques 


Data lifecycle management:  

The data lifecycle management process includes secure storage and retrieval of data but alongside operational functionality, it is also necessary to dispose of the data properly. Data erasure is a crucial aspect of data lifecycle management and helps to responsibly remove data when it is no longer needed.  


Compliance with data protection regulations:  

Data protection regulations in different countries require organizations to safeguard the privacy and security of an individual’s personal data. To avoid any legal consequences and potential damages from data theft, breach, or leakage, data erasure is a legal requirement to ensure compliance with the imposed regulations.  


Examples of data erasure: 


Corporate IT asset disposal: 

When a company decides to retire its previous systems and upgrade to new hardware, it must ensure that any old data that belongs to the company is securely erased from the older devices before they can be sold, donated or recycled.

This prevents sensitive corporate information from falling into the wrong hands. The IT department can use certified data erasure software to securely wipe all sensitive company data, including financial reports, customer databases, and employee records, ensuring that none of this information can be recovered from the devices. 


Healthcare data privacy: 

Like the corporate industry, Healthcare organisations tend to store confidential patient information in their systems. If the need arises to upgrade these systems, they must ensure secure data erasure to protect patient confidentiality and to comply with healthcare data privacy regulations like HIPAA in the United States. 


Cloud services:  

Cloud service providers often have data erasure procedures in place to securely erase customer data from their servers when requested by customers or when the service is terminated. 


Data center operations:  

Data centres often have strict data erasure protocols in place to securely wipe data from hard drives, SSDs, and other storage devices when they are no longer in use. This ensures that customer data is not accessible after the equipment is decommissioned. 


Financial services:  

In a situation where a stock brokerage firm needs to retire its older trading servers. These servers would indefinitely contain some form of sensitive financial transaction data and customer account information.

Prior to selling the servers, the firm would have to use hardware-based data erasure solutions to completely overwrite the data and render it irretrievable, ensuring client confidentiality and regulatory compliance. 

Safeguard your business data today!

In the era where data is referred to as the ‘new oil’, safeguarding it has become paramount. Many times, individuals feel hesitant to dispose of their personal devices due to the possible misuse of data present in them.  

The same applies to large organizations, when proper utilization of data has been done, standard measures should be taken to discard the data so that it does not result in unnecessary consequences. To ensure privacy and maintain integrity, data erasure was brought into practice. In an age where data is king, data erasure is the guardian of the digital realm. 

October 12, 2023