Gone are the days when programmers would tell a machine how to solve a problem at hand. We are in the era of machine learning where machines are left to solve problems, on their own, by identifying the patterns in each data set. Analyzing hidden trends and patterns makes it easy to predict future problems and prevent them from occurring.

A machine learning algorithm usually follows a certain type of data and then uses the patterns hidden in that data to answer more questions. For example showing a computer a series of photographs, some of which say that “this is a horse” and some of which say “this is not a horse.” After this exercise, if you show some more photographs to the same computer, it will be on a mission to identify which of those photographs are of a horse and which of those are not that of a horse. Every correct and incorrect guess of the computer is added to its memory, which makes it smarter in the longer run and enriches its learning over a period.

How Does Machine Learning Work?

To get the maximum value from big data, businesses must know exactly how to pair the right algorithm with a particular tool or process and build machine learning models based on iterative learning processes. Some of the key machine learning algorithms are –

  1. Random forests
  2. Neural networks
  3. Discovery of sequence and associations
  4. Decision trees
  5. Mapping of nearest neighbor
  6. Supporting vector machines
  7. Boosting and bagging gradient
  8. Self organizing maps
  9. Multivariate adaptive regression
  10. SEO
  11. Analysis of principal components

Why is Machine Learning So Important in Today’s Business Scenario?

Most of the industries dealing with huge amounts of data have now recognized the value of machine learning. By gleaning hidden insights from this data, businesses can work more efficiently and can also gain a competitive edge. Besides, affordable and easy computational processing and cost-effective data storage options have made it feasible to develop models that quickly and accurately analyze huge chunks of complex data. Apart from enabling enterprises to identify trends and patters from diverse data sets, ML also enables businesses to automate analysis, which was traditionally done by humans. Using ML organizations can deliver personalized services and differentiated products that precisely cater to varying needs of the customers. Additionally, ML also helps companies to identify opportunities that can be profitable in the long run. If you are planning to develop effective machine learning systems for augmenting your knowledge, then here is what it takes –

  1. Superior data preparation capabilities
  2. Knowledge of basic and advanced algorithms
  3. Scalability
  4. Automation and iterative processes
  5. Knowledge of ensemble modeling

Popular Machine Learning Methods in Use Today

Although supervised and unsupervised learning are two of the most widely accepted machine learning methods by businesses today, there are various other machine learning techniques. Following is an overview of some of the most accepted ML methods –

Supervised Learning – These algorithms are trained using labeled examples, in different scenarios, as an input where the desired outcome is already known. An equipment, for instance, could have data points such as “F” and “R” where “F” represents “failed” and “R” represents “runs”. A learning algorithm will receive a set of input instructions along with the corresponding accurate outcomes. The learning algorithm will then compare the actual outcome with the accurate outcome and flag an error, if there is any discrepancy. Using different methods, such as regression, classification, gradient boosting, and prediction, supervised learning uses different patterns to proactively predict the values of a label on extra unlabeled data. This method is commonly used in areas where historical data is used to predict events that are likely to occur in the future. For instance, anticipate when a credit card transaction is likely to be fraudulent or predict which insurance customers are likely to file their claims.

Unsupervised Learning – This method of ML finds its application in areas were data has no historical labels. Here, the system will not be provided with the “right answer” and the algorithm should identify what is being shown. The main aim here is to analyze the data and identify a pattern and structure within the available data set. Transactional data serves as a good source of data set for unsupervised learning. For instance, this type of learning identifies customer segments with similar attributes and then lets the business to treat them similarly in marketing campaigns. Similarly, it can also identify attributes that differentiate customer segments from one another. Either ways, it is about identifying a similar structure in the available data set. Besides, these algorithms can also identify outliers in the available data sets. Some of the widely used techniques of unsupervised learning are – 1. k-means clustering 2. self-organizing maps 3. value decomposition 4. mapping of nearest neighbor

Semi-supervised Learning – This kind of learning is used and applied to the same kind of scenarios where supervised learning is applicable. However, one must note that this technique uses both unlabeled and labeled data for training. Ideally, a small set of labeled data, along with a large volume of unlabeled data is used, as it takes less time, money and efforts to acquire unlabeled data. This type of machine learning is often used with methods, such as regression, classification and prediction. Companies that usually find it challenging to meet the high costs associated with labeled training process opt for semi-supervised learning.

Reinforcement Learning – This is mainly used in navigation, robotics and gaming. Actions that yield the best rewards are identified by algorithms that use trial and error methods. There are three major components in reinforcement learning, namely, the agent, the actions and the environment. The agent in this case is the decision maker, the actions are what an agent does, and the environment is anything that an agent interacts with. The main aim in this kind of learning is to select the actions that maximize the reward, within a specified time. By following a good policy, the agent can achieve the goal faster. Hence, the primary idea of reinforcement learning is to identify the best policy or the method that helps businesses in achieving the goals faster. While humans can create a few good models in a week, machine learning is capable of developing thousands of such models in a week.

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