About time buckets

The time_bucket function allows you to aggregate data into buckets of time, for example: 5 minutes, 1 hour, or 3 days. It's similar to PostgreSQL's date_trunc function, but it gives you more flexibility in bucket size and start time.

Time bucketing is essential to working with time-series data. You can use it to roll up data for analysis or downsampling. For example, you can calculate 5-minute averages for a sensor reading over the last day. You can perform these rollups as needed, or pre-calculate them in continuous aggregates.

This section explains how time bucketing works. For examples of the time_bucket function, see the section on using time buckets.

How time bucketing works

Time bucketing groups data into time intervals. With time_bucket, the interval length can be any number of microseconds, milliseconds, seconds, minutes, hours, days, or weeks.

time_bucket is usually used in combination with GROUP BY to aggregate data. For example, you can calculate the average, maximum, minimum, or sum of values within a bucket.

note

time_bucket doesn't support months, years, or timezones. The experimental function time_bucket_ng adds support for these intervals and parameters. To learn more, see the section on time_bucket_ng.

Origin

The origin determines when time buckets start and end. By default, a time bucket doesn't start at the earliest timestamp in your data. There is often a more logical time. For example, you might collect your first data point at 00:37, but you probably want your daily buckets to start at midnight. Similarly, you might collect your first data point on a Wednesday, but you might want your weekly buckets calculated from Sunday or Monday.

Instead, time is divided into buckets based on intervals from the origin. The following diagram shows how, using the example of 2-week buckets. The first possible start date for a bucket is origin. The next possible start date for a bucket is origin + bucket interval. If your first timestamp does not fall exactly on a possible start date, the immediately preceding start date is used for the beginning of the bucket.

The default origin for time_bucket is January 3, 2000. For integer time values, the default origin is 0.

For example, say that your data's earliest timestamp is April 24, 2020. If you bucket by an interval of two weeks, the first bucket doesn't start on April 24, which is a Friday. It doesn't start on April 20, which is the immediately preceding Monday. It starts on April 13, because you can get to April 13, 2020, by counting in two-week increments from January 3, 2000.

Choice of origin

In TimescaleDB 1.0 and above, the default origin for time_bucket is January 3, 2000. That date is a Monday, which allows week-based buckets to begin on Monday by default. This behavior is compliant with the ISO standard for Monday as the start of a week.

In prior versions, the default origin was January 1, 2000. time_bucket_ng also uses January 1, 2000. That date is more natural for counting months and years.

If you prefer another origin, you can set it yourself using the origin parameter. For example, to start weeks on Sunday, set the origin to Sunday, January 2, 2000.

Timezones

The origin time depends on the data type of your time values.

If you use TIMESTAMP, by default, bucket start times are aligned with 00:00:00. Daily and weekly buckets start at 00:00:00. Shorter buckets start at a time that you can get to by counting in bucket increments from 00:00:00 on January 3, 2000.

If you use TIMESTAMPTZ, by default, bucket start times are aligned with 00:00:00 UTC. To get buckets aligned to local time, cast the TIMESTAMPTZ to TIMESTAMP before passing it to time_bucket.

note

Casting TIMESTAMPTZ to TIMESTAMP works outside of continuous aggregates. For example, you can use it in a stand-alone SELECT statement to perform a one-time calculation. It does not work within continuous aggregates. To learn more, see the section on time in continuous aggregates.

Time_bucket in continuous aggregates

Time buckets are commonly used to create continuous aggregates. Continuous aggregates add some limitations to what you can do with time_bucket.

Continuous aggregates don't allow functions that depend on a local timezone setting. That is, you cannot cast TIMESTAMPTZ to TIMESTAMP within a continuous aggregate definition. To learn more and find a workaround, see the section on time in continuous aggregates.

Continuous aggregates also don't allow named parameters.

Experimental function: time_bucket_ng

The experimental function time_bucket_ng adds new features, including support for months, years, and timezones.

warning

Experimental features could have bugs. They might not be backwards compatible, and could be removed in future releases. Use these features at your own risk, and do not use any experimental features in production.

Months and years

In addition to the time units supported by time_bucket, time_bucket_ng also supports months and years. For example, you can bucket data into 3-month or 5-year intervals.

Origin

By default, time_bucket_ng uses Saturday, January 1, 2000 for its origin. This differs from time_bucket. Because time_bucket_ng supports months and years, January 1 provides a more natural starting date for counting intervals.

Unlike time_bucket, time_bucket_ng doesn't support dates before the origin. In other words, by default, you cannot use time_bucket_ng with data from before the year 2000. If you need to go farther back in time, you can change the origin by setting the origin parameter.

Timezones

time_bucket_ng adds support for timezones. By setting the timezone parameter, you can align bucket start times to local time, even if the time values are in TIMESTAMPTZ form. That means you can start daily buckets at midnight local time rather than UTC time.

Time_bucket_ng in continuous aggregates

Time buckets are commonly used to create continuous aggregates. Continuous aggregates add some limitations to what you can do with time_bucket_ng. For example, continuous aggregates don't allow named parameters.

Here are the time_bucket_ng features supported by continuous aggregates:

FeatureAvailable in continuous aggregateTimescaleDB version
Buckets by seconds, minutes, hours, days, and weeks2.4.0 and later
Buckets by months and years2.6.0 and later
Timezones2.6.0 and later
Custom origin2.7.0 and later

Time_bucket compared to time_bucket_ng

There are several differences between time_bucket and time_bucket_ng:

Featuretime_buckettime_bucket_ng
Bucket by microseconds, milliseconds, seconds, hours, minutes, days, and weeks
Bucket by months and years
Bucket TIMESTAMPTZ values according to local time using the timezone parameter
OriginJanuary 3, 2000January 1, 2000
Bucket dates before the origin❌ Work around this by changing the origin.

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