Machine learning is a method of data analysis that automates analytical model building. It is a branch of artificial intelligence based on the idea that systems can learn from data, identify patterns and make decisions with minimal human intervention.
Evolution of machine learning
Because of new computing technologies, machine learning today is not like machine learning of the past. It was born from pattern recognition and the theory that computers can learn without being programmed to perform specific tasks; researchers interested in artificial intelligence wanted to see if computers could learn from data. The iterative aspect of machine learning is important because as models are exposed to new data, they are able to independently adapt. They learn from previous computations to produce reliable, repeatable decisions and results. It’s a science that’s not new – but one that has gained fresh momentum.
While many machine learning algorithms have been around for a long time, the ability to automatically apply complex mathematical calculations to big data – over and over, faster and faster – is a recent development. Here are a few widely publicized examples of machine learning applications you may be familiar with:
- The heavily hyped, self-driving Google car? The essence of machine learning.
- Online recommendation offers such as those from Amazon and Netflix? Machine learning applications for everyday life.
- Knowing what customers are saying about you on Twitter? Machine learning combined with linguistic rule creation.
- Fraud detection? One of the more obvious, important uses in our world today.
Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence
While artificial intelligence (AI) is the broad science of mimicking human abilities, machine learning is a specific subset of AI that trains a machine how to learn. Watch this video to better understand the relationship between AI and machine learning. You’ll see how these two technologies work, with useful examples and a few funny asides.
Why is machine learning important?
Resurging interest in machine learning is due to the same factors that have made data mining and Bayesian analysis more popular than ever. Things like growing volumes and varieties of available data, computational processing that is cheaper and more powerful, and affordable data storage.
All of these things mean it’s possible to quickly and automatically produce models that can analyze bigger, more complex data and deliver faster, more accurate results – even on a very large scale. And by building precise models, an organization has a better chance of identifying profitable opportunities – or avoiding unknown risks.
Who’s using it?
Most industries working with large amounts of data have recognized the value of machine learning technology. By gleaning insights from this data – often in real time – organizations are able to work more efficiently or gain an advantage over competitors.
Banks and other businesses in the financial industry use machine learning technology for two key purposes: to identify important insights in data, and prevent fraud. The insights can identify investment opportunities, or help investors know when to trade. Data mining can also identify clients with high-risk profiles, or use cybersurveillance to pinpoint warning signs of fraud.
Government agencies such as public safety and utilities have a particular need for machine learning since they have multiple sources of data that can be mined for insights. Analyzing sensor data, for example, identifies ways to increase efficiency and save money. Machine learning can also help detect fraud and minimize identity theft.
Machine learning is a fast-growing trend in the health care industry, thanks to the advent of wearable devices and sensors that can use data to assess a patient’s health in real time. The technology can also help medical experts analyze data to identify trends or red flags that may lead to improved diagnoses and treatment.
Marketing and sales
Websites recommending items you might like based on previous purchases are using machine learning to analyze your buying history – and promote other items you’d be interested in. This ability to capture data, analyze it and use it to personalize a shopping experience (or implement a marketing campaign) is the future of retail.
Oil and gas
Finding new energy sources. Analyzing minerals in the ground. Predicting refinery sensor failure. Streamlining oil distribution to make it more efficient and cost-effective. The number of machine learning use cases for this industry is vast – and still expanding.
Analyzing data to identify patterns and trends is key to the transportation industry, which relies on making routes more efficient and predicting potential problems to increase profitability. The data analysis and modeling aspects of machine learning are important tools to delivery companies, public transportation and other transportation organizations.