Microsoft debuts cloud-based machine learning

Microsoft is introducing a new cloud-based service called Azure Machine Learning that helps companies use data analysis to predict behavior.

The service lets users build and test algorithms that can predict purchasing patterns, electricity usage and more. The work and results can be hosted on Microsoft’s Azure cloud offering. Microsoft has been testing Azure Machine Learning for about a year and now has about 100 customers testing it, said Microsoft General Manager Eron Kelly.

Microsoft said its new product can be used by anyone – from full-fledged data scientists to analysts who don’t have a mathematical background.

According to a post on Bloomberg Businessweek:

Machine learning, which is an artificial intelligence field that involves constructing systems that automatically analyze and learn from data, has been on the rise. Even as companies collect more information, the challenge has been how to extract value from it. As a result, the market for analysis software is growing about 18 percent a year and will reach $6.5 billion by 2019, according to Transparency Market Research.

Joseph Sirosh, a machine-leaning executive at Microsoft said in a blog post, “Soon machine learning will help to drastically reduce wait times in emergency rooms, predict disease outbreaks and predict and prevent crime. To realize that future we need to make machine learning more accessible.”

Microsoft will offer a public preview of the service in July.

Considering that just about everyone and their brother is collecting massive amounts of data about everything we do or buy or watch, products like Azure Machine Learning are going to become more and more valuable every day. Simply gathering data isn’t enough – you have to be able to turn it into something meaningful.

Now developing tools to cure diseases, reduce energy consumption or fight crime may be a noble and worthwhile thing, I suspect that the folks who will make the most of machine learning will be companies trying to figure out the best ways to sell you something you may or may not need or want.