Foundation models of time series have not been fully developed due to the limited availability of large-scale time series and the underexploration of scalable pre-training. Based on the similar sequential structure of time series and natural language, increasing research demonstrates the feasibility of leveraging large language models (LLM) for time series. Nevertheless, prior methods may overlook the consistency in aligning time series and natural language, resulting in insufficient utilization of the LLM potentials. To fully exploit the general-purpose token transitions learned from language modeling, we propose AutoTimes to repurpose LLMs as Autoregressive Time series forecasters, which is consistent with the acquisition and utilization of LLMs without updating the parameters. The consequent forecasters can handle flexible series lengths and achieve competitive performance as prevalent models. Further, we present token-wise prompting that utilizes corresponding timestamps to make our method applicable to multimodal scenarios. Analysis demonstrates our forecasters inherit zero-shot and in-context learning capabilities of LLMs. Empirically, AutoTimes exhibits notable method generality and achieves enhanced performance by basing on larger LLMs, additional texts, or time series as instructions.
Deep learning has contributed remarkably to the advancement of time series analysis. Still, deep models can encounter performance bottlenecks in real-world small-sample scenarios, which can be concealed due to the performance saturation with small models on current benchmarks. Meanwhile, large models have demonstrated great powers in these scenarios through large-scale pre-training. Continuous progresses have been achieved as the emergence of large language models, exhibiting unprecedented ability in few-shot generalization, scalability, and task generality, which is however absent in time series models. To change the current practices of training small models on specific datasets from scratch, this paper aims at an early development of large time series models (LTSM). During pre-training, we curate large-scale datasets with up to 1 billion time points, unify heterogeneous time series into single-series sequence (S3) format, and develop the GPT-style architecture toward LTSMs. To meet diverse application needs, we convert forecasting, imputation, and anomaly detection of time series into a unified generative task. The outcome of this study is a Time Series Transformer (Timer), that is pre-trained by autoregressive next token prediction on large multi-domain datasets, and is fine-tuned to downstream scenarios with promising abilities as an LTSM.