Machine Learning and IoT
by Srirama Sai Kiran Palavancha
Machine Learning is a valuable player in the realm of the Internet of Things. ML and IoT have seen a tremendous rise in popularity over the past few years, considered by many as revolutionary, game changing tech. However, it seems that the hype surrounding this tech has attributed to a general confusion when it comes to understanding it’s true purpose, benefits, and suitability.
Here’s a breakdown of Machine Learning, how it can be valuable for IoT, when it’s appropriate to use, and some machine learning applications in the world today.
Data Analytics vs. Machine Learning
With all the aforementioned hype around machine learning, many organizations are asking if machine learning applications could benefit their business model. In the vast majority of cases, the answer is a resounding no.
Machine learning takes large amounts of data and generates useful insights that help the organization. That could mean improving processes, cutting costs, creating a better experience for the customer, or opening up new business models.
The thing is, most organizations can get many of these benefits from traditional data analytics, without the need for more complicated machine learning applications.
Traditional data analysis are great at explaining data. You can generate reports or models of what happened in the past or of what’s happening today, drawing useful, insightful conclusions about your organization.
Data analytics can help quantify and track goals, enable smarter decision making, and then provide the means for measuring success over time.
When Is Machine Learning Valuable?
In general, machine learning is valuable when you know what you want but you don’t know the important input variables to make that decision. So you give the machine learning algorithm the goal(s) and then it “learns” from the data which factors are important in achieving that goal.
The data models that are typical of traditional data analytics are often static and of limited use in addressing fast-changing and unstructured data. When it comes to IoT, it’s often necessary to identify correlations between dozens of sensor inputs and external factors that are rapidly producing millions of data points.
In addition, machine learning is also valuable for accurately predicting future events. Whereas the data models built using traditional data analytics are static, machine learning algorithms constantly improve over time as more data is captured and assimilated. This means that the machine learning algorithm can make predictions, see what actually happens, compare against its predictions, then adjust to become more accurate.
The predictive analytics made possible by machine learning are hugely valuable for many IoT applications. Let’s take a look at a few concrete examples…
Machine Learning Applications in IoT
Cost Savings in Industrial Applications:
Predictive capabilities are extremely useful in an industrial setting. By drawing data from multiple sensors in or on machines, machine learning algorithms can “learn” what’s typical for the machine and then detect when something abnormal begins to occur.
Predicting when a machine needs maintenance is incredibly valuable, translating into millions of dollars in saved costs. A great example is Goldcorp, a mining company that uses immense vehicles to haul away materials.
When these hauling vehicles break down, it costs Goldcorp $2 million per day in lost productivity. Goldcorp is now using machine learning to predict with over 90% accuracy when machines will need maintenance, meaning huge cost savings.
Shaping Experiences to Individuals:
We’re actually all familiar with machine learning applications in our everyday lives. Both Amazon and Netflix use machine learning to learn our preferences and provide a better experience for the user. That could mean suggesting products that you might like or providing relevant recommendations for movies and TV shows.
Similarly, in IoT machine learning can be extremely valuable in shaping our environment to our personal preferences.
The billions of sensors and devices that will continue to be connected to the internet in the coming years will generate exponentially more data. This huge increase in data will drive great improvements in machine learning, opening countless opportunities for us to reap the benefits.
Not only we will be able to predict when machines need maintenance, we’ll be able to predict when we need maintenance too. Machine learning will be applied to the data from our wearables to learn our baseline and determine when our vitals have become abnormal, calling a doctor or ambulance automatically if necessary.
Beyond individuals, we’ll be able to use that health data at scale to see trends across entire populations, predicting outbreaks of disease and proactively addressing health problems.
Although both machine learning and IoT can be over-hyped, the future of machine learning applications in IoT are worthy of that hype. We’re really just scratching the surface of what’s possible.