2. Centre for Computational Intelligence, De Montfort University, Leicester LE1 9BH, UK;

3. Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Nanjing 210016, China

**Abstract:**To reveal the relationship between a weakening buffer operator and strengthening buffer operator, the traditional integer order buffer operator is extended to one that is fractional order. Fractional order buffer operator not only can generalize the weakening buffer operator and the strengthening buffer operator, but also results in small adjustments of the buffer effect. The effectiveness of the grey model (GM(1, 1)) with the fractional order buffer operator is validated by six cases.

Due to growing demand for reliable small sample statistics, small sample prediction is a topic of great importance topic. Over the years, many scholars have carried out a variety of research [1]-[4]. Among these papers, it is reported that the forecasting performance of the grey model is better than many conventional methods with incomplete or insufficient data [4]-[6]. Grey system theory was developed by Deng [7]. As the primary forecasting method of grey system theory, GM(1, 1) has been applied in many fields [4]-[7]. However, GM(1, 1) is suitable for a stable time series, but predicting a non-stationary series is a difficult problem which deserves to be researched.

For a non-stationary time series prediction problem, the theory on how to select a model would lose its validity. That is the problem is not that of selecting a better model; instead, what needs to be considered is that when a system is severely affected by shock, the available data of the past cannot truthfully reflect the law of the system. Under such circumstances, the buffer operator of grey system theory [7] has been successfully used in many fields to overcome the above difficulties [8]-[13], and it combines quantitative and judgmental forecast (qualitative analysis). Many kinds of buffer operators have been proposed simultaneously [14]-[18], and the process to choose a suitable buffer operator is very important in practice. In this paper, many kinds of buffer operators are unified and generalized based on the fractional order method.

The rest of this paper is organized as follows. Section Ⅱ is a compendium of the grey buffer operator. In Section Ⅲ, the inherent relationship between a weakening buffer operator and strengthening buffer operator based on fractional order method is revealed. In Section Ⅳ, real examples for a fractional order buffer operator are discussed. Some conclusions of this study are provided in the final section.

Ⅱ. WEAKENING BUFFER OPERATOR AND STRENGTHENING BUFFER OPERATORAssume that

The wide existence of severely shocked systems often causes quantitative predictions that disagree with the outcomes of intuitive qualitative analysis. Hence, seeking an equilibrium between qualitative analysis and quantitative predictions by eliminating these disturbances is an important task in order to discover the true situation of the system. The grey buffer operator proposed by Liu can address the problem, and its definition is as follows.

*Definition 1 [7]:* Assume that raw data sequence is

*Lemma 1 [7]:*

*Lemma 2 [7]:* Assume that

*Lemma 3 [7]:* Assume that

*Definition 2 [7]:* Assume that raw data sequence is

$ \begin{align} x(k)d=\frac{x(k)+x(k+1)+\cdots+x(n)}{n-k+1} \end{align} $ | (1) |

If

$ \begin{align} x(k)d=\frac{x(1)+x(2)+\cdots+x(k-1)+kx(k)}{2k-1} \end{align} $ | (2) |

then

Due to traditional weakening buffer operators cannot tune the effect intensity to a small extent, which leads to problems where the buffer effect may be too strong or too weak. Considering this situation, the fractional weakening buffer operator is constructed like in fractional-order systems [19]-[21]. Equation (1) can be expressed by

$ \begin{align*} XD=&\ \{x(1)d, x(2)d, \ldots, x(n)d\}\\ =&\ \left[x(1), x(2), \ldots, x(n)\right] \left[\begin{array}{cccc} \frac{1}{n}&0&\ldots&0\\ \frac{1}{n}& \frac{1}{n-1}&\ldots&0\\ \vdots&\vdots&\ddots&\vdots\\ \frac{1}{n}& \frac{1}{n-1}&\ldots&1 \end{array}\right]. \end{align*} $ |

The second order WBO can be expressed by

$ \begin{align*} XD^2=\left[x(1), x(2), \ldots, x(n)\right]\left[\begin{array}{cccc} \frac{1}{n}&0&\ldots&0\\ \frac{1}{n}&\frac{1}{n-1}&\ldots&0\\ \vdots&\vdots&\ddots&\vdots\\ \frac{1}{n}&\frac{1}{n-1}&\ldots&1 \end{array}\right]^2. \end{align*} $ |

Similarly,

$ \begin{align*} XD^\frac{p}{q}=\left[x(1), x(2), \ldots, x(n)\right]\left[\begin{array}{cccc} \frac{1}{n}&0&\ldots&0\\ \frac{1}{n}&\frac{1}{n-1}&\ldots&0\\ \vdots&\vdots&\ddots&\vdots\\ \frac{1}{n}&\frac{1}{n-1}&\ldots&1 \end{array}\right]^\frac{p}{q}. \end{align*} $ |

*Theorem 1:* For original data

*Proof:* Set

$ \begin{align*}\left[\begin{array}{cccc} \frac{1}{n}&0&\ldots&0\\ \frac{1}{n}&\frac{1}{n-1}&\ldots&0\\ \vdots&\vdots&\ddots&\vdots\\ \frac{1}{n}&\frac{1}{n-1}&\ldots&1 \end{array}\right]=A \end{align*} $ |

since

$ \begin{align*} XD^{-\frac{p}{q}}=&\ X\left[\begin{array}{cccc} \frac{1}{n}&0&\ldots&0\\ \frac{1}{n}&\frac{1}{n-1}&\ldots&0\\ \vdots&\vdots&\ddots&\vdots\\ \frac{1}{n}&\frac{1}{n-1}&\ldots&1 \end{array}\right]^{-\frac{p}{q}}\\ =&\ XA^{-\frac{p}{q}}\\ =&\ X\left[\begin{array}{ccccc} n&0&0&\ldots&0\\ -(n-1)&n-1&0&\ldots&0\\ 0&-(n-2)&n-2&\ldots&0\\ \vdots&\vdots&\vdots&\ddots&\vdots\\ 0&0&0&\ldots&1 \end{array}\right]^\frac{p}{q}. \end{align*} $ |

The result of

If sequence

So the

*Corollary 1:* For original data

*Corollary 2:* For original data

The procedures of the GM(1, 1) model with the

*Step 1:* Given a raw data sequence

*Step 2:* Sequence

*Step 3:* The parameter

$ \begin{equation*} \left[\begin{array}{c} \hat{a}\\ \hat{b} \end{array}\right]=(A^{T}A)^{-1}A^{T}Y \end{equation*} $ |

where

$ \begin{align*} Y=\!\left[\begin{array}{c} x^{(0)}(2)d^\frac{p}{q}\\ x^{(0)}(3)d^\frac{p}{q}\\ \vdots\\ x^{(0)}(n)d^\frac{p}{q} \end{array}\right], \;\; A=\!\left[\begin{array}{cc} -\frac{x^{(1)}(1)d^\frac{p}{q}+x^{(1)}(2)d^\frac{p}{q}}{2}&1\\ -\frac{x^{(1)}(2)d^\frac{p}{q}+x^{(1)}(3)d^\frac{p}{q}}{2}&1\\ \vdots&\vdots\\ -\frac{x^{(1)}(n-1)d^\frac{p}{q}+x^{(1)}(n)d^\frac{p}{q}}{2}&1 \end{array}\right]. \end{align*} $ |

*Step 4:* After substituting

*Step 5:* If the predicted value

*Step 6:* Repeat Step 1-5 until the predicted values

To test the proposed model, mean absolute percentage error (MAPE

*Case 1: Energy consumption forecasting in China [23]*

The data from 1998 to 2005 (

As can be seen from Table Ⅰ, 0.1WGM(1, 1) is the best model among the above models using the sample data. So 0.1WGM(1, 1) is used to predict the data from 2008 to 2009. The results are listed in Table Ⅱ. As can be seen from Table Ⅱ, 0.1WGM(1, 1) yielded the lowest MAPE in out-of-sample data. This implies that 0.1WGM(1, 1) can improve prediction precision.

*Case 2: Electricity consumption per capita forecasting in China [24]*

The data from 2000 to 2005 (

As can be seen from Table Ⅲ, both WGM(1, 1) models are better than the best result of [23]. As a conclusion, fractional order WBO has a perfect forecasting capability.

*Case 3: The qualified discharge rate of industrial wastewater forecasting in Jiangxi in China [17]*

The data from 2000 to 2005 (

As can be seen from Table Ⅳ, the WGM(1, 1) model is better than the best result of [17], so fractional order WBO can improve the prediction accuracy of the conventional GM(1, 1) model.

*Case 4: The electricity consumption forecasting in Vietnam [25]*

The data from 2000 to 2003 (

As can be seen from Table Ⅴ, the WGM(1, 1) model is better than the best result of [17], so the fractional order WBO can improve the prediction accuracy of the conventional GM(1, 1) model.

*Case 5: The logistics demand forecasting in Jiangsu [26]*

The data from 2005 to 2008 are used to construct three grey models with WBO, and the data from 2009 are predicted by these models. The results are shown in Table Ⅵ.

As can be seen from Table Ⅵ, the WGM(1, 1) model is better than the traditional grey model, so the fractional order WBO can improve the prediction accuracy of the conventional GM(1, 1).

*Case 6: The energy production forecasting in China [27]*

The 1985-1989 data is used for model building, while the 1990-1995 data is used as an ex-post testing data set. The results given by the GM(1, 1) model and 1.5WGM(1, 1), as well as the observed values, are shown in Table Ⅶ.

Table Ⅶ shows that the 1.5WGM(1, 1) model is better for forecasting the energy production in China. The forecasted values are more precise than the GM(1, 1) model for data sequences with large random fluctuations.

Ⅴ. CONCLUSIONLet us now return to fractional calculus. Fractional calculus is a name for the theory of integrals and derivatives of arbitrary order, which unifies and generalizes the notions of an integer-order differential and integral. Similarly, fractional order WBO unifies and generalizes the notions of WBO and SBO. As can be seen from Tables Ⅱ-Tables Ⅶ, GM(1, 1) with the fractional order buffer operator can predict the development trend of the system accurately.

Six real cases were seen to obtain good results, however, the order

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