The term machine learning was coined in 1959 by Arthur Samuel and is the field of computer science that uses statistical techniques to give computer systems the ability to learn, that is, to progressively improve performance on a specific task with data, without being explicitly programmed. Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence has become very relevant today and this is due to three fundamental factors being the volume of data created, cloud storage and computing power. Lets look at these factors in more detail.

Data Volume

The past 2 years has seen 80% of the worlds data be created. The amount of data that is being created is growing exponentially. In 2015 there was 7,900 exabyte of data created, in comparison, ten years earlier there was only 130 exabyte. This explosion can best be evidenced by looking at Facebook and YouTube. There is 100 terabyte of data uploaded to Facebook everyday. To put that in perspective, if you filmed your life every day for 80 years, that is the equivalent of 1 terabyte of data. YouTube is no different, there is 48 hours of video uploaded every minute and almost 600 new websites are built every minute of every day.

Data can take two forms, structured and unstructured. The structured data typically lives in a database and is highly structured. A lot of the growth today in data volume comes from unstructured data, which is data that is not pre-defined or organised. Examples of unstructured data include video, social media, emails and voice.

“The Cloud”

With so much data being created, there is a need for all of this data to be stored. There has been great advancements in cloud storage, enabling businesses to effectively and more cheaply store their data than in-house. Cloud storage offers the ability for businesses to spend less on data storage infrastructure. There are real benefits to Cloud storage for business including:-

  • Flexibility – the cloud is easy to scale
  • Capital expenditure free – cuts the high cost of hardware
  • Cheaper – most providers offer a “pay as you go” model
  • Work from anywhere – just need the internet
  • Security – data is stored in the cloud not locally
  • Competitiveness – the market is competitive enabling all business access to enterprise class technology

Some of the biggest technology companies offer cloud computing and storage services and compete quite aggressively for market share. The biggest players in this space include Amazon (AWS), Google (Google Cloud) and Microsoft (Azure), not to forget IBM.

Computer Power

The computational power of computers has increased dramatically, providing the opportunity to analyse large volumes of data. As an example, the iPhone 6’s clock is 32,600 times faster than the best Apollo era computers and could perform instructions 120,000,000 times faster. That’s just a mobile phone!

Computers have two ways to compute – CPU and GPU. The CPU is the central processing unit in your computer. It is tasked with performing many of the functions required to run programs on your PC or laptop. Where machine learning has benefited from is the advancement in GPU, graphics processing units. GPU is a key driver to accelerating faster computing. GPUs offer thousands of computational cores and 10 to 100 times the application throughput compared to CPU’s alone. GPU’s are designed for handling multiple tasks simultaneously. In machine learning, GPUs are used for larger training sets, in less time and using far less data centre infrastructure.

The huge increase in data volumes, the relative ease and cost effectiveness of cloud hosting and computing, supported by increased processing power, has meant that the ability for businesses to enact machine learning capabilities has become more mainstream and far less specialised. What would have taken a time consuming and costly exercise to deliver, is far more democratised to businesses.

Black Belt Digital has a proven track record working on machine learning projects. We can help to identify the business solution that machine learning can support. The team has worked across many different types of machine learning projects and can help you understand the positive benefit machine learning can have on your business. Talk to us today.