Machine Learning and Its Real-World Applications

The AlphaGo artificial intelligence system from Google recently defeated world champion Lee Seedol in a tournament of the Chinese strategy game of Go. It is just one of the triumphs in the growing field of machine learning that has garnered attention and spurred innovation around the globe.

What is machine learning?

Machine learning is the study and practice of computers “learning” to solve a complex problem without being explicitly programmed. Google said AlphaGo was fed data on 30 million game moves from a huge library of recorded Go matches between top players.1 From that information and from playing thousands of test matches against itself, the computer recognized winning patterns and strategies and essentially trained itself to perform at a world-class level.

How is machine learning being used?

Machine learning already is being used in a number of real-world applications. For example, at Google, machine learning has contributed to its voice recognition applications, Google Translate and to photograph recognition on the Internet.2

IBM is marketing its IBM Watson as a platform utilizing machine learning to obtain insights from unstructured data. Case studies include helping a home security system provider manage secure access control for hundreds of thousands of users and assisting the state government of Massachusetts in managing space utilization, maintenance and leases for its facilities.3

Amazon is offering its machine learning capabilities in areas including fraud detection, demand forecasting, targeted marketing and click prediction.4 For example, using prior shopping patterns and other cached browser data, Amazon can target ads to visitors that are more likely to appeal to them.

An increasingly important application of machine learning is in helping firewalls and other cyber security devices identify and respond to cyber threats. By studying network traffic and server and application behavior, a cyber security appliance can use machine learning to identify malware more effectively. For example, a recent project achieved 85% accuracy in detecting cyber attacks.5

Machine learning is just starting to realize its potential in analytics for business, marketing, healthcare, cyber security, transportation, education and other fields.

Careers in Machine Learning

Careers as a data scientist or data analyst with a specialty in machine learning are in high demand and offer substantial rewards. The career path and job titles are quickly evolving.

Data scientists analyze complex data to develop insights that can help their organizations. Data scientists use machine learning to extract lessons from “big data”, huge collections of data that may come from a variety of sources.

The demand for data scientists is strong, and GlassDoor ranked “Data Scientist” as the “Best Job in America” in 2016 with about 1,700 job openings in the field and a median base salary of $116,840.6 Payscale’s most recent survey of “big data analytics” jobs showed median salaries including $93,198 for Information Technology Data Scientists; $98,626 for Software Engineer; $99,029 for Data Scientist; and $131,877 for Senior Software Engineer.7

How do you prepare for a career in machine learning?

Lewis University offers hands-on graduate coursework in machine learning in both the online MS in Data Science and MS in Computer Science. Through this coursework, students learn to write programs that demonstrate machine-learning techniques. In the MS in Computer Science, students also have the option to pursue a related concentration in intelligent systems, which focuses on developing integrated hardware-software systems that respond to their environment.

Lewis University’s faculty members bring real-world experience to the classroom and help students understand how technology is currently used and how it should evolve to meet continuing needs. Lewis also boasts a small student-to-faculty ratio and a track record of helping students gain major career opportunities and establish powerful connections.

Take advantage of the opportunities offered by Lewis University to get your start in, or transition to, a dynamic career in machine learning.