ProjectBlog: Machine Learning Definition (Complete Guide)

Blog: Machine Learning Definition (Complete Guide)

What is Machine Learning?

Machine Learning is a system that can learn from example through self-improvement and without being explicitly coded by programmer. The breakthrough comes with the idea that a machine can singularly learn from the data (i.e., example) to produce accurate results.

Machine learning combines data with statistical tools to predict an output. This output is then used by corporate to makes actionable insights. Machine learning is closely related to data mining and Bayesian predictive modeling. The machine receives data as input, use an algorithm to formulate answers.

A typical machine learning tasks are to provide a recommendation. For those who have a Netflix account, all recommendations of movies or series are based on the user’s historical data. Tech companies are using unsupervised learning to improve the user experience with personalizing recommendation.

Machine learning is also used for a variety of task like fraud detection, predictive maintenance, portfolio optimization, automatize task and so on.

How does Machine learning work?

Machine learning is the brain where all the learning takes place. The way the machine learns is similar to the human being. Humans learn from experience. The more we know, the more easily we can predict. By analogy, when we face an unknown situation, the likelihood of success is lower than the known situation. Machines are trained the same. To make an accurate prediction, the machine sees an example. When we give the machine a similar example, it can figure out the outcome. However, like a human, if its feed a previously unseen example, the machine has difficulties to predict.

The core objective of machine learning is the learning and inference.

1. Learning

Learning Phase (Machine Learning)

First of all, the machine learns through the discovery of patterns. This discovery is made thanks to the data. One crucial part of the data scientist is to choose carefully which data to provide to the machine. The list of attributes used to solve a problem is called a feature vector. You can think of a feature vector as a subset of data that is used to tackle a problem.

The machine uses some fancy algorithms to simplify the reality and transform this discovery into a model. Therefore, the learning stage is used to describe the data and summarize it into a model.

For instance, the machine is trying to understand the relationship between the wage of an individual and the likelihood to go to a fancy restaurant. It turns out the machine finds a positive relationship between wage and going to a high-end restaurant: This is the model.

2. Inferring

Inference Phase (Machine Learning)

When the model is built, it is possible to test how powerful it is on never-seen-before data. The new data are transformed into a features vector, go through the model and give a prediction. This is all the beautiful part of machine learning. There is no need to update the rules or train again the model. You can use the model previously trained to make inference on new data.

The life of Machine Learning programs is straightforward and can be summarized in the following points:

  1. Define a question
  2. Collect data
  3. Visualize data
  4. Train algorithm
  5. Test the Algorithm
  6. Collect feedback
  7. Refine the algorithm
  8. Loop 4–7 until the results are satisfying
  9. Use the model to make a prediction

Machine learning Algorithms and where they are used?

Machine Learning (Unsupervised and Supervised)

Machine learning can be grouped into two broad learning tasks: Supervised and Unsupervised. There are many other algorithms.

1. Supervised learning

An algorithm uses training data and feedback from humans to learn the relationship of given inputs to a given output. For instance, a practitioner can use marketing expense and weather forecast as input data to predict the sales of cans.

You can use supervised learning when the output data is known. The algorithm will predict new data.

There are two categories of supervised learning:

  • Classification task
  • Regression task

1.1. Classification

Imagine you want to predict the gender of a customer for a commercial. You will start gathering data on the height, weight, job, salary, purchasing basket, etc. from your customer database. You know the gender of each of your customer, it can only be male or female. The objective of the classifier will be to assign a probability of being a male or a female (i.e., the label) based on the information (i.e., features you have collected). When the model learned how to recognize male or female, you can use new data to make a prediction. For instance, you just got new information from an unknown customer, and you want to know if it is a male or female. If the classifier predicts male = 70%, it means the algorithm is sure at 70% that this customer is a male, and 30% it is a female.

The label can be of two or more classes. The above example has only two classes, but if a classifier needs to predict object, it has dozens of classes (e.g., glass, table, shoes, etc. each object represents a class)

1.2. Regression

When the output is a continuous value, the task is a regression. For instance, a financial analyst may need to forecast the value of a stock based on a range of feature like equity, previous stock performances, macroeconomics index. The system will be trained to estimate the price of the stocks with the lowest possible error.

2. Unsupervised learning

In unsupervised learning, an algorithm explores input data without being given an explicit output variable (e.g., explores customer demographic data to identify patterns)

You can use it when you do not know how to classify the data, and you want the algorithm to find patterns and classify the data for you.

Application of Machine learning


  • Machine learning, which assists humans with their day-to-day tasks, personally or commercially without having complete control of the output. Such machine learning is used in different ways such as Virtual Assistant, Data analysis, software solutions. The primary user is to reduce errors due to human bias.


  • Machine learning, which works entirely autonomously in any field without the need for any human intervention. For example, robots performing the essential process steps in manufacturing plants.

Finance Industry

  • Machine learning is growing in popularity in the finance industry. Banks are mainly using ML to find patterns inside the data but also to prevent fraud.

Government organization

  • The government makes use of ML to manage public safety and utilities. Take the example of China with the massive face recognition. The government uses Artificial intelligence to prevent jaywalker.

Healthcare industry

  • Healthcare was one of the first industry to use machine learning with image detection.


  • Broad use of AI is done in marketing thanks to abundant access to data. Before the age of mass data, researchers develop advanced mathematical tools like Bayesian analysis to estimate the value of a customer. With the boom of data, marketing department relies on AI to optimize the customer relationship and marketing campaign.

Why is Machine Learning important?

Machine learning is the best tool so far to analyze, understand and identify a pattern in the data. One of the main ideas behind machine learning is that the computer can be trained to automate tasks that would be exhaustive or impossible for a human being. The clear breach from the traditional analysis is that machine learning can take decisions with minimal human intervention.

Take the following example; a retail agent can estimate the price of a house based on his own experience and his knowledge of the market.

A machine can be trained to translate the knowledge of an expert into features. The features are all the characteristics of a house, neighborhood, economic environment, etc. that make the price difference. For the expert, it took him probably some years to master the art of estimate the price of a house. His expertise is getting better and better after each sale.

For the machine, it takes millions of data, (i.e., example) to master this art. At the very beginning of its learning, the machine makes a mistake, somehow like the junior salesman. Once the machine sees all the example, it got enough knowledge to make its estimation. At the same time, with incredible accuracy. The machine is also able to adjust its mistake accordingly.

Most of the big company have understood the value of machine learning and holding data. McKinsey have estimated that the value of analytics ranges from $9.5 trillion to $15.4 trillion while $5 to 7 trillion can be attributed to the most advanced AI techniques.

Example of application of Machine Learning in Supply Chain

Machine learning gives terrific results for visual pattern recognition, opening up many potential applications in physical inspection and maintenance across the entire supply chain network.

Unsupervised learning can quickly search for comparable patterns in the diverse dataset. In turn, the machine can perform quality inspection throughout the logistics hub, shipment with damage and wear.

For instance, IBM’s Watson platform can determine shipping container damage. Watson combines visual and systems-based data to track, report and make recommendations in real-time.

In past year stock manager relies extensively on the primary method to evaluate and forecast the inventory. When combining big data and machine learning, better forecasting techniques have been implemented (an improvement of 20 to 30 % over traditional forecasting tools). In term of sales, it means an increase of 2 to 3 % due to the potential reduction in inventory costs.

Source: Artificial Intelligence on Medium

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