As we progress deeper into a booming technological age, scientists and engineers are discovering numerous applications for computers and computerised objects. From their inception, computers have primarily run on algorithms that instruct them to complete specified, tightly defined work. An important distinction has been their inability to learn or adapt.
Technology’s preoccupation with artificial intelligence has increasingly led to a focus on machine learning. This involves the development of algorithms, techniques and tools designed to teach machines to assess and adapt automatically, either through supervised or unsupervised learning . In short, science is working towards teaching our computers to learn.
While this may seem reminiscent of a science-fiction movie, the technology is real, and having exciting impacts all across the world. Discover some of our top machine learning applications.
Computers look set to join humans in the fight against the impacts of climate change. Scientists working in the Gulf of Mexico have utilised machine learning technology to monitor the underwater communication of dolphins. Underwater sensors have been programmed to record and automatically categorise the animal sounds, allowing scientists to identify patterns. This data will be used to track their habits and observe how they respond to environmental changes. More broadly, this technology has the capacity to exponentially increase our knowledge of marine life, which could have significant consequences for marine and ocean conservation.
At James Cook University, the new online Master of Data Science is also focused on a global environmental dataset of importance. James Cook University is one of the world's leading institutions focusing on the tropics. Surrounded by the spectacular ecosystems of the wet tropics, the dry savannahs and the iconic Great Barrier Reef, James Cook University has unique datasets such as the state of the tropics dataset, which openly explores key aspects of research data by using advanced algorithms. This will be used in their Masters program to enable students to work with authentic data and train on leading analytical software.
The healthcare industry is set to benefit significantly from machine learning. Google’s research into AI has demonstrated just one of the myriad of ways new technology can improve doctor knowledge. Its health and technology arm, Verily, has developed an algorithm that analyses the retinal scans to identify factors such as age and blood pressure. This enables the program to make risk predictions on a number of health issues, including the likelihood of a cardiac arrest, more commonly known as a heart attack.
While the technology will require more testing before it can be applied, it promises quicker, less invasive diagnostics than the current blood test. It also paves the way for computers to become involved in all manner of diagnosis and risk assessments, leaving doctors more time to treat the issues in front of them.
Fighting digital fraud
One of the risks of buying and selling over the internet has been the ease of digital financial crime. From simple ripping off consumers to complex money laundering, there are several opportunities from fraud. However, machine learning is empowering companies such as online transaction giant, PayPal, to do something about it. The company employs a combination of three different algorithms to compare millions of transactions every day. Their approach (considered one of the most effective) helps them pinpoint fraudulent transactions and identify instances of financial misbehaviour. The technology can also be applied to risk management, in assessing credit history and spending patterns. In a world where currency is increasingly going digital, machine learning such as this has already become a vital part of the online sphere.
If you’re keen to delve into the depths of machine learning, why not consider an online Master of Data Science degree with James Cook University. Our course, which includes the unit Data Mining and Machine Learning, looks set to inspire the next big steps in engineering and technology.