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Machine Learning: What it is and why it matters

Probably, this is not the first time you’ve heard the term. You’re probably already familiar with some of its aspects and it is certain that machine learning is here to stay. As big data becomes more and more available, machine learning is a must-have tool to understand how the world works. Why? It makes data more manageable while predicting patterns for current and future uses. In an interview with the Boston Globe, MIT professor Tommi Jaakkola, creator of the coveted course Intro to Machine Learning, explained in simple words that:

Machine learning is now more than ever an available tool for companies, governments, financial institutions, even the public. It allows them to take a great piece of information and learn the secrets it contains. Instead of relying on a person or a team to look for a specific tidbit of info as CSI investigating for clues, machine learning looks into every nook and cranny to presents the info to the user, allowing them to ask the data different questions while the software figures out the answer. It won’t be able to tell you, for example, “therefore a fraudulent transaction has happened”, but it’ll be able to say “this is what all the fraudulent transactions have in common”.

But, it is not limited to the financial world. Machine learning is ubiquitous: from your Netflix account suggestions to how to best determine your credit score to that foreign language phrase you just translated on a website, even on self-driving car technology.

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So, why should you be paying attention?

Well, machine learning makes it easier to understand big data. It saves time by noticing patterns well before a well-trained eye could; it can save money by avoiding risks, and help in making important profitable decisions, with a smaller margin of error. Its uses are not limited to government, tech or finance industries.

Microsoft Azure Machine Learning, for example, makes machine learning accessible. It is clear enough for new users to understand and, as part of cloud based service Azure, it can be accessed from anywhere. Azure’s clarity allows for newer users and machine learning first timers to play around with datasets. But if a user is already experienced and ready to publicize a web service, such as tracking flights for a probability of being delayed, Azure allows for that too. As everyday technology and IoT continue to extend its reach and collect more and more information, big data will become, well, bigger. Machine learning will make it more accessible and usable for the public and private sector to cater their needs as well as their customers and citizens.

Machine learning will allow your business, no matter the field, to grow and become more efficient. If you have an online store, you’d be able to recommend an item based on previous purchases, for a returning customer; if your company is in investments, it’ll track the patterns on the market to make the best choice possible; if you’re a journalist, it’ll make big data an important source for any story. In healthcare, it helps with early detection; In finance, it can be used to detect fraudulent transactions; it can be used by anybody as long as the data is available.

With tools like Azure, your business can better understand how to serve its clients, and in turn, how to work more efficiently. Machine learning through Azure is less complicated than doing the same process manually: drag and drop the datasets, connect to the algorithm, run the experiment. If everything works as you want, just go ahead and publish.

The most time-consuming part will be cleaning the data. If your dataset is incomplete or you depend on multiple datasets to find the information you’re searching, you’ll need to pay close attention to how you merge the information and what you select as a filler for an empty area. Once this is done or if your data doesn’t need to be clean, you’ll be able to start analyzing soon. It’s important to notice that machine learning will show you the patterns, but the connections and reasoning will be done by you.

Azure and other tools are making machine learning accessible, opening the door to new and better uses of data for businesses and the government. Machine learning makes big data work for you, providing you with patterns and statistics to work more efficiently within your office and for your clients.

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Carlos Feliciano

Marketing Coordinator at INVID. Love animals, technology, writing and design. Future graduate of MBA, Information Security. A positive mind can change everything.

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