A Guide to Time Series Forecasting with Deep Learning

Time series forecasting is a valuable technique for predicting future trends and values based on historical data. It can help predict stock prices, energy usage, sales growth, and anything else for which historical data is available.

Deep learning has significantly impacted time series forecasting by leveraging AI and machine learning models to capture complex patterns and long-range dependencies in sequential data.

This article explores the advantages of using deep learning models to enhance time series forecasting.

What Is Time Series Forecasting?

Time series forecasting is a way to predict future values of a variable based on its historical data over time. It involves analyzing patterns and trends in past observations to make informed estimates about future behavior.

Time series forecasting deals with data ordered sequentially over time, such as daily stock prices, monthly sales figures, or hourly energy consumption. By analyzing patterns and trends in this historical data, businesses can estimate the future values of the time series variable with a high degree of accuracy.

Time series forecasting accounts for characteristics like trends (upward/downward movements), seasonality (periodic fluctuations), and other cyclical components present in the data.

Organizations in diverse domains, such as finance, economics, production planning, inventory management, weather prediction, and many more, leverage time series forecasting when understanding future trends is crucial.

The Benefits of Time Series Forecasting

As you might imagine, businesses benefit significantly from accurately predicting future trends. Accurate forecasting enables better planning, resource allocation, risk management, and strategic decision-making.

Proactive Decision Making

By anticipating future scenarios through forecasting, businesses can be proactive rather than reactive. Based on predicted demand, they can optimize inventory, staffing, marketing spend, and other areas. They can also take corrective actions early.

Improved Operational Efficiency

Time series forecasting improves operational efficiency by enabling better capacity planning, supply chain optimization, anomaly detection, and resource management in accordance with projected requirements.

Competitive Advantage

Accurate forecasting of market trends, customer demand, and competitor actions gives businesses a competitive edge. It allows them to stay ahead of the curve and capitalize on opportunities.

Enhancing Forecasts with Deep Learning

Deep learning is a subset of machine learning that uses artificial neural networks with multiple layers to learn from data in a way that mimics the human brain. Businesses can gain several advantages by incorporating deep learning into their time series forecasting process.

Automatic Feature Extraction

Deep neural networks can automatically learn relevant features and representations from raw time series data, eliminating the need for manual feature engineering, which is often required in traditional statistical methods.

Nonlinear Relationship Modeling

Deep learning models like recurrent neural networks (RNNs) and long short-term memory (LSTMs) can effectively model nonlinear relationships and intricate patterns in many real-world time series.

High-Dimensional Processing

One of the big advantages deep learning models have over traditional models is their ability to handle high-dimensional data (i.e., datasets with a vast number of features relative to the number of observations). Time series datasets often have vast amounts of high-dimensional data, choking traditional models with their scale and complexity. Deep learning models can handle high-dimensional data more readily.

Long-Range Dependencies

Architectures like LSTMs and attention mechanisms allow deep learning models to capture long-range dependencies and temporal patterns spanning hundreds of time steps.

Improved Accuracy

Numerous studies across domains like finance, energy, retail, and others have demonstrated that deep learning models can achieve higher forecasting accuracy than classical statistical methods, especially for complex time series.

Primary Use Cases

Time series forecasting with deep learning has numerous important use cases across various domains.  

Financial Forecasting

Deep learning can make time series forecasts more accurate for predicting future stock prices, currency exchange rates, trading volumes, and other similar financial trends, allowing investors to make more informed decisions.

It also improves forecasting for economic indicators like GDP, inflation, and unemployment rates to guide monetary policies.

Demand and Supply Chain Forecasting

Deep learning improves forecasting for product demand and sales volumes, enabling retail businesses, manufacturers, and so on to optimize inventory and production levels.

It also aids in predicting supply chain requirements and transportation needs based on anticipated demand. This type of forecasting is particularly critical due to the increasing supply chain disruptions.

Energy Forecasting

Deep learning makes energy grid management more effective by improving the accuracy of forecasting energy production from renewable sources like solar and wind.

It also helps predict energy consumption patterns for efficient power distribution and planning.

Weather Forecasting

Increasing climate instability highlights the importance of accurate weather forecasts. By leveraging deep learning on meteorological data, weather professionals improve the accuracy of their rainfall and temperature forecasts, hurricane path predictions, and estimates of severe weather outbreaks.


Healthcare organizations require precise forecasting of patient admissions and bed occupancy rates to optimize hospital resource allocation. Having this information readily at hand is particularly critical when disasters flood hospitals with a mass influx of patients needing emergency care.

Time series forecasting with deep learning is also enormously valuable for predicting disease outbreak risks by modeling spread patterns over time. Accurate predictions help reduce the spread and prevent pandemic-level events, or at least help the healthcare industry prepare for them.

Internet of Things (IoT)

In manufacturing and similar industries, feeding sensor data from IoT devices to deep learning software detects anomalies and enables these businesses to predict maintenance needs before breakdowns occur.

In IT settings, deep learning enhances time series forecasting of network traffic spikes and bandwidth requirements for efficient network management.

Neural Networks Used for Time Series Forecasting

Several deep learning models excel at time series forecasting, and each has its strengths. However, three neural network models have revolutionized the practice: Long Short-Term Memory Networks (LSTMs), Gated Recurrent Units (GRUs), and Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs).

Long Short-Term Memory Networks

LSTMs have become a powerful tool in the time series forecasting arsenal, especially for complex, nonlinear, multivariate sequences exhibiting long-range dependencies. Their effectiveness depends on the specific time series problem’s characteristics.

The core strength of LSTMs lies in their ability to selectively remember and forget information over long sequences through their gating mechanism and cell state. This makes them adept at modeling temporal dependencies in time series data, which is crucial for accurate forecasting. LSTMs can effectively capture nonlinear relationships present in many real-world time series, which linear models may struggle with.

LSTMs can be designed to take multiple parallel input series (multivariate) and forecast multiple future time steps (multi-step), which allows for modeling complex time series problems. Unlike traditional time series models that require manual feature engineering, LSTMs can automatically learn relevant features and patterns from raw time series data through their recurrent layers.

Gated Recurrent Units

GRUs are a powerful and widely adopted variation of LSTMs. They are popular for time series forecasting that deals with long sequences exhibiting complex temporal patterns and nonlinearities. GRUs’ usefulness lies in their ability to selectively capture long-range dependencies while being computationally efficient.

Like LSTMs, GRUs can selectively remember and forget information over long sequences through their gating mechanism, allowing them to effectively model temporal dependencies in time series data.

Another feature they share is that they can handle multivariate and multi-step forecasting well, making them equally flexible for complex time series problems. Ditto automatic feature extraction. Like LSTMs, GRUs automatically learn relevant features and patterns from raw time series data without manual feature engineering and capture nonlinear relationships.

So what’s the difference? GRUs have a slightly simpler architecture with fewer gates, making them computationally more efficient while achieving comparable performance on many tasks. It also makes them faster to train than LSTMs.

Convolutional Neural Networks

LSTMs and GRUs are recurrent neural networks, or RNNs. CNNs share many traits with those RNNs: automatic feature extraction, capturing long-range dependencies, and multivariate and multi-step forecasting.

Unlike those models, however, CNNs allow parallelization during training and inference, leading to faster computation times. CNN architectures like WaveNet, Temporal Convolutional Networks (TCNs), and hybrids like CNN-LSTM can outperform traditional methods and match or exceed RNN performance on various time series forecasting tasks.

CNNs are well suited for analyzing time series data with complex, layered structures, such as climate anomalies and seismic activities.

Challenges of Time Series Forecasting with Deep Learning

Despite all the advantages, deep learning does have some drawbacks. It requires careful attention to data preprocessing, for example, to train the model on meaningful patterns.

Deep learning models also require regularization to prevent overfitting. Overfitting is a situation in machine learning where a model learns the training data too well, including the noise or random fluctuations present in the training data. As a result, the model performs exceptionally well on the training data but fails to generalize and make accurate predictions on new, unseen data.

Simply choosing a model can be daunting. Simpler GRUs might work well for some tasks, while others might call for a more complex LSTM or CNN. An AI development company can help you choose the model most suited to your needs.

Overall, deep learning provides powerful alternatives to traditional approaches, enabling more accurate forecasting for complex time series exhibiting nonlinear patterns and long-range dependencies.

Contact the experts at Taazaa if you want to leverage a deep learning model to improve your organization’s time series forecasting.

David Borcherding

David is a Senior Content Writer at Taazaa. He has 15+ years of B2B software marketing experience, and is an ardent champion of quality content. He enjoys finding fresh, new ways to relay helpful information to our customers.