The huge leaps in Big Data and analytics over the past few years has meant that the average business user is now grappling with a whole new lexicon of tech-terminology. This can breed confusion, as people aren’t sure of the difference between terms and approaches. In my experience, data mining and machine learning are a prime example of this. In this article, I define both data mining and machine learning, and set out how the two approaches differ. So if you’ve never quite grasped the difference, this article is for you.
Data Mining vs. Machine Learning: What’s The Difference?
Data mining isn’t a new invention that came with the digital age. The concept has been around for over a century but came into greater public focus in the 1930s.
According to Hacker Bits, one of the first modern moments of data mining occurred in 1936, when Alan Turing introduced the idea of a universal machine that could perform computations similar to those of modern-day computers.
Forbes also reported on Turing’s development of the “Turing Test” in 1950 to determine if a computer has real intelligence or not. To pass his test, a computer needed to fool a human into believing it was also human. Just two years later, Arthur Samuel created The Samuel Checkers-playing Program that appears to be the world’s first self-learning program. It miraculously learned as it played and got better at winning by studying the best moves.
We’ve come a long way since then. Businesses are now harnessing data mining and machine learning to improve everything from their sales processes to interpreting financials for investment purposes. As a result, data scientists have become vital employees at organizations all over the world as companies seek to achieve bigger goals with data science than ever before.
Data Mining vs. Machine Learning vs. Data Science
With big data becoming so prevalent in the business world, a lot of data terms tend to be thrown around, with many not quite understanding what they mean. What is data mining? Is there a difference between machine learning vs. data science? How do they connect to each other? Isn’t machine learning just artificial intelligence? All of these are good questions, and discovering their answers can provide a deeper, more rewarding understanding of data science and analytics and how they can benefit a company.
Both data mining and machine learning are rooted in data science and generally fall under that umbrella. They often intersect or are confused with each other, but there are a few key distinctions between the two. Here’s a look at some data mining and machine learning differences between data mining and machine learning and how they can be used.
One key difference between machine learning and data mining is how they are used and applied in our everyday lives. For example, data mining is often used by machine learning to see the connections between relationships. Uber uses machine learning to calculate ETAs for rides or meal delivery times for UberEATS.
Data mining can be used for a variety of purposes, including financial research. Investors might use data mining and web scraping to look at a start-up’s financials and help determine if they want to offer to fund. A company may also use data mining to help collect data on sales trends to better inform everything from marketing to inventory needs, as well as to secure new leads. Data mining can be used to comb through social media profiles, websites, and digital assets to compile information on a company’s ideal leads to start an outreach campaign. Using data mining can lead to 10,000 leads in 10 minutes. With this much information, a data scientist can even predict future trends that will help a company prepare well for what customers may want in the months and years to come.
Machine learning embodies the principles of data mining, but can also make automatic correlations and learn from them to apply to new algorithms. It’s the technology behind self-driving cars that can quickly adjust to new conditions while driving. Machine learning also provides instant recommendations when a buyer purchases a product from Amazon. These algorithms and analytics are constantly meant to be improving, so the result will only get more accurate over time. Machine learning isn’t artificial intelligence, but the ability to learn and improve is still an impressive feat.
Banks are already using and investing in machine learning to help look for fraud when credit cards are swiped by a vendor. CitiBank invested in global data science enterprise Feedzai to identify and eradicate financial fraud in real-time across online and in-person banking transactions. The technology helps to rapidly identify fraud and can help retailers protect their financial activity.
Collecting data is only part of the challenge; the other part is making sense of it all. The right software and tools are needed to be able to analyze and interpret the huge amounts of information data scientists collect and find recognizable patterns to act upon. Otherwise, the data would largely be unusable unless data scientists could devote their time to looking for these complex, often subtle, and seemingly random patterns on their own. And anyone even somewhat familiar with data science and data analytics knows this would be an arduous, time-consuming task.
Businesses could use data to shape their sales forecasting or determine what types of products their customers really want to buy. For example, Walmart collects point of sales from over 3,000 stores for its data warehouse. Vendors can see this information and use it to identify buying patterns and guide their inventory predictions and processes for the future.
It’s true that data mining can reveal some patterns through classifications and sequence analysis. However, machine learning takes this concept a step further by using the same algorithms data mining uses to automatically learn from and adapt to the collected data. As malware becomes an increasingly pervasive problem, machine learning can look for patterns in how data in systems or the cloud is accessed. Machine learning also looks at patterns to help identify which files are actually malware, with a high level of accuracy. All this is done without the need for constant monitoring by a human. If abnormal patterns are detected, an alert can be sent out so action can be taken to prevent the malware from spreading.
Both data mining and machine learning can help improve the accuracy of the data collected. However, data mining and how it’s analyzed generally pertains to how the data is organized and collected. Data mining may include using extracting and scraping software to pull from thousands of resources and sift through data that researchers, data scientists, investors, and businesses use to look for patterns and relationships that help improve their bottom line.
One of the primary foundations of machine learning is data mining. Data mining can be used to extract more accurate data. This ultimately helps refine your machine learning to achieve better results. A person may miss the multiple connections and relationships between data, while machine learning technology can pinpoint all of these moving pieces to draw a highly accurate conclusion to help shape a machine’s behavior.
Machine learning can enhance relationship intelligence in CRM systems to help sales teams better understand their customers and make a connection with them. Combined with machine learning, a company’s CRM can analyze past actions that lead to a conversion or customer satisfaction feedback. It can also be used to learn how to predict which products and services will sell the best and how to shape marketing messages to those customers.
The Future of Data Mining and Machine Learning
The future is bright for data science as the amount of data will only increase. By 2020, our accumulated digital universe of data will grow from 4.4 zettabytes to 44 zettabytes, as reported by Forbes. We’ll also create 1.7 megabytes of new information every second for every human being on the planet.
As we amass more data, the demand for advanced data mining and machine learning techniques will force the industry to evolve in order to keep up. We’ll likely see more overlap between data mining and machine learning as the two intersect to enhance the collection and usability of large amounts of data for analytics purposes.
According to reporting from Bio-IT World, the future of data mining points to predictive analysis, as we’ll see advanced analytics across industries like medical research. Scientists will be able to use predictive analysis to look at factors associated with disease and predict which treatment will work the best.
We’re just scratching the surface of what machine learning can do and how it will spread to help scale our analytical abilities and improve our technology. According to reporting from Geekwire, as our billions of machines become connected, everything from hospitals to factories to highways can be improved with IoT technology that can learn from other machines.
But some experts have a different idea about data mining and machine learning altogether. Instead of focusing on their differences, you could argue that they both concern themselves with the same question: “How we can learn from data?” At the end of the day, how we acquire and learn from data is really the foundation for emerging technology. It’s an exciting time not just for data scientists but for everyone that uses data in some form.
To find out more about Data Mining, check out this article discussing the difference between Data Mining and Data Harvesting.