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.
What is data mining?
Data mining is a subset of business analytics and refers to exploring an existing large dataset to unearth previously unknown patterns, relationships and anomalies that are present in the data. It gives us the ability to find completely new insights that we weren’t necessarily looking for – unknown unknowns, if you like.
For example, if a business has a lot of data on customer churn, it could apply a data mining algorithm to find unknown patterns in the data and identify new associations that could indicate customer churn in the future. In this way, data mining is frequently used in retail to spot patterns and trends.
What is machine learning?
Machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence (AI). With machine learning, computers analyse large data sets and then ‘learn’ patterns that will help it make predictions about new data sets. Apart from the initial programming and maybe some fine-tuning, the computer doesn’t need human interaction to learn from the data.
Put simply, machine learning is about teaching computers to learn a bit like humans do, by interpreting information and learning from our successes and failures. As an analytic process, it’s particularly useful for predicting outcomes. So, Netflix predicting you may want to watch Ozark next, based on the viewing preferences of other users with similar profiles, is an example of machine learning in action. Real-time fraud detection on credit card transactions is another example.
Why do people confuse the two?
As you can see, there are some similarities between the two concepts:
In fact, machine learning may use some data mining techniques to build models and find patterns, so that it can make better predictions. And data mining can sometimes use machine learning techniques to produce more accurate analysis.
What are the key differences?
Data mining and machine learning may, at heart, both be about learning from data and making better decisions. But the way they go about this is different. Here are some of the key differences between the two:
Clearly, there are some distinct differences between the two. Yet, as businesses look to become more and more predictive, we may see more overlap between machine learning and data mining in future. For example, more businesses may seek to improve their data mining analytics with machine learning algorithms.
Where to go from here
If you would like to know more about Machine Learning, AI and Big Data, cheque out my articles on:
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Bernard Marr is an internationally bestselling author, futurist, keynote speaker, and strategic advisor to companies and governments. He advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations on strategy, digital transformation and business performance. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK. He has authored 16 best-selling books, is a frequent contributor to the World Economic Forum and writes a regular column for Forbes. Every day Bernard actively engages his almost 2 million social media followers and shares content that reaches millions of readers.