Machine Learning Specialists: How can they help small businesses?

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“Can machines think?”                                                                 – Alan Turing

Machine learning, a branch of computer science, focuses on developing algorithms that can “learn” from or adapt to the data and make predictions. As a small business owner, who has no digital products or has minimal web presence, you may not be too interested in the advances made in the field of machine learning. However, recently non-digital companies, big and small too, are using machine learning approach to advance their businesses.

Machine learning has a wide range of applicability from digital applications such as developing video games to business related functions such as marketing. Machine learning algorithms need not be limited to large companies or web based companies such as Amazon. How can a small business owner benefit from consulting machine learning specialists? Here we discuss top three possibilities:

Predictive analysis:  Each day more and more data is becoming available as we integrate technology in our lives; for instance, data from the use of wearable devices or use of social media.  With machine learning approach these data may provide powerful predictions, which can help businesses to plan accordingly. Predictive analysis is not limited to data available from external sources. Small business owners can use their internal data and machine learning approach to make sales forecasts and further, identify clients that may be at risk.

Understand subtle relationships between variables: Big data is dynamic, means changes frequently over time. Traditional methods of computing will take longer time to discover how one factor may be related to other. Machine learning algorithms can quickly clarify the relationships of interest. For instance,  Airbnb , a company that lists rental vacation homes, apartments etc., was interested in offering a price tip to the rental property owners (aka hosts). Using their rental listings data, Airbnb developed a machine learning package called Aerosolve to understand the relationship between the rental listings and the prices they command.  Airbnb hosts now benefit from the price tip offered by the Airbnb machine learning algorithm.

Develop new applications: Machine learning algorithms can provide new interesting solutions to questions that could not be answered before.  Clarifi, a start-up company that uses machine learning algorithms such as ‘deep learning technique’, has developed software service that enables computers to understand videos. This service can further advance business abilities e.g., to advertise a certain product at certain time.

Although we discuss only three areas here, the possibilities are endless. Machine learning is a field that is evolving and expanding. Its use is no longer limited to big businesses and small business owners can certainly benefit from it. Hiring an expert machine learning specialist may be the next smart business decision that you will make.

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About Author

Aditi is an expert in the field of mind-body interactions. After completing a PhD in Human Physiology from the University of Oregon, her research focused on physiological changes associated with emotional blunting and stress. Apart from science, she is interested in food writing, art and art history.

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