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The Rise of the Machines

Let me ask you this:

Have you used the Internet before?

Yes I know, that’s a stupid question. The obvious answer is YES! (If not, where are you reading this article from?!)

So if you have used the internet before, then it is also highly likely that you would have engaged with machine learning on some level. I mean, even services such as Netflix are slowly moving towards machine learning in order to improve its video streaming quality!

*cricket sounds*

*more cricket sounds*

At this point, if you are mind-struck and staring at your computer or phone screen like a deer caught in the headlights, with no clue what I just said, I know what you are thinking:

“What is this author babbling about?! I know what Netflix is, but what in the world is machine learning?”

Well, be patient grasshopper, and let me explain.

So what is Machine Learning?

Imagine that computers are like humans – with the capabilities to learn from repetitive activities and exposure to different kinds of scenarios.

For example, if you take the same route to and from work every day, I am sure that even if you are distracted on your phone or have your eyes close, you are still able to go to the correct MRT line, walk the correct route, and find your way without a problem.

Why? It’s because our brains are able to store this repetitive activity and movement in our minds, such that we can do such tasks without even thinking! It all becomes automatic. I mean, how else do you think dancers can remember their steps after countless of trainings?

Similarly, if computers are able to learn from repetitive activities, we would then be able to use the information from the actions to learn and evolve.

This is exactly what is being looked into with machine learning – whereby computers are being used to progressively improve performance with data without any specific programming. Its almost as if the machine can predict and know what we would do.

The basic definition is this: Machine learning is an application of artificial intelligence (AI) that provides systems the ability to automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed.

The primary aim is to allow the computers learn automatically without human intervention or assistance and adjust actions accordingly.

Therefore, machine learning enables specialised tasks to be completed. For example, object detection, recommendation based on past data and optimisation of current processes; tasks that used to require human workers to operate previously.

What does Machine Learning do for me and my Business?

So now that you have an idea what machine learning is, you may ask me how can it help your business?

Well, before going into the nitty gritty just yet, let me first start of by saying that all forms of business can be improved through the use of machine learning capabilities!

It automates my company’s processes

With Machine Learning, you don’t need to babysit your project every step of the way. Since it means giving machines the ability to learn, it lets them make predictions and also improve the algorithms on their own.

Let’s take a marketing company as an example.

Traditionally, when companies try to optimise marketing campaigns and improve their profitability of pricing, one would either do a rough gauge on what the employees feel is most useful, or do a costly in-depth market analysis before making any decision.

However, by implementing the traditional approach, not only is it inaccurate, the company is also unable to effectively and efficiently respond to changes in the market. Hence, this causes companies to lose out when making transitions.

On the contrary, machine learning would use the data from the environment to automate marketing campaigns and forecasting. And this would rapidly increase the rate of accuracy and speed in a way that would outstrip traditional methods.

It easily identifies trends and patterns

Machine learning is adept at reviewing large volumes of data and identifying patterns and trends that might not be apparent to a human. For instance, for an e-commerce website like Amazon, it serves to understand the browsing behaviors and purchase histories of its users to help cater to the right products, deals, and reminders relevant to them. It uses the results to reveal relevant advertisements to them.

It allows me to be bigger and better

Nowdays, there is a growing volume and variety of available data; cheaper and more powerful computational processing; and data storage that is more affordable.

All these hence requires models that can analyze bigger, more complex data and deliver faster, more accurate results – even on a very large scale. And with machine learning, by building such precise models, companies will be able to have a better chance of identifying profitable opportunities – or avoiding unknown risks, allowing them to grow bigger and better.

In short, machine learning can be implemented in many different areas that require analysis and the usage of data in an optimal fashion.

Small Businesses can use Machine Learning too!

“But my company is just a startup. Can we use machine learning?”

The answer is YES!

Basically, any company, big or small, is able to adopt machine learning into their company’s processes.

The main reason is this: small businesses know that they need to seek out the latest tech solutions in order to avoid being outsmarted by digital competitors.

If you look back at recent years, these competitors have successfully been implementing SaaS (Software as a Service) products, cloud-based software and other digital solutions. Machine learning is thus the next obvious step to take in updating one’s business.

Of course for a small business, there are obstacles when implementing machine learning solutions. I mean, R&D in machine learning is costly and the digital savvy needed to create and train one’s own model is intimidating. Yet, despite these obstacles, businesses are still motivated to invest, because 84% believe that adopting AI will lead to a greater competitive advantage.

However, thankfully, the concerns and costs of small business machine learning integration are now mostly obsolete. This is because machine learning technologies are starting to be integrated into every industry due to a rapid drop in price as competitors have entered the market and open source frameworks have become available. The ROI is high because these solutions save companies time and resources on mundane tasks and turn data into insight. Integrating AI into business processes can help ensure more timely and more accurate decision-making.

Moreover, pre-trained machine learning models are helping small businesses to build solutions that used to only be available to large enterprises. And because machine learning technology has been in development for a couple of decades now, you don’t have to start from scratch! Open source algorithms and tools are more widely available now.

The Future of Machine Learning

If we’re being technical, machine learning has actually been around since the 1950s, when Arthur Samuel coined the term at IBM. Early statistical models in those days paved the way for today’s modern artificial intelligence.

However, with advancements in algorithms, statistical modeling, and computing, machine learning will only get more efficient in the future! IBM Big Data Hub made the following predictions:

  1. Machine learning will be an integral part of all artificial intelligence systems, large or small

  2. As machine learning assumes increased importance in business applications, there is a strong possibility of this technology being offered as a Cloud-based service known as Machine Learning-as-a-Service (MLaaS)

  3. Connected AI systems will enable machine learning algorithms to “continuously learn,” based on newly emerging information on the internet

  4. There will be a big rush among hardware vendors to enhance CPU (central processing unit) power to accommodate machine learning data processing. More accurately, hardware vendors will be pushed to redesign their machines to do justice to the powers of machine learning

  5. Machine Learning will help machines to make better sense of context and meaning of data

What should you do if you want to incorporate Machine Learning into your company?

Well, the first step would be to start investing!

Investing in machine learning now will help your company gain momentum and build a solid foundation in the technology that will drive better, more comprehensive models across myriad industries, including education, service, retail and technology.

Want to incorporate Machine Learning into your company? Click the green button below to contact us today!

eVantage Technology is a professional and trusted IT solutions provider, dedicated to providing exceptional service to companies in Singapore and across Asia.

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