Aren't The IoT, Big Data And Machine Learning The Same?

They are often confused, but what do they each do?


The Internet of Things (IoT), big data and machine learning are three of the most exciting new business technologies of the past 5 years. They have been the stalwarts of Gartner's hype cycle and yet many people don't really know the difference between them, often overlapping their uses and confusing their purposes.

With these three processes and systems, there are huge overlaps and they are also more or less symbiotic with one another. The future of technology will actually be driven by these three elements in their own ways.

What Is The IoT?

The IoT is a link made between connected devices. It allows devices to work outside of the need for human input.

To put it into a context that we can all understand, the IoT allows your fridge to interact with a pot of yoghurt inside it. Without any kind of intervention from a human, the fridge will be able to see when the expiration date of the yoghurt is, then once it is past that date, it will automatically inform the human and order a new pot.

It goes well beyond this though, allowing pipelines to feedback their status, cars to automatically book themselves in for a service on a particular part or even for thermostats to control temperature to optimize energy savings.

What Is Big Data?

Big data in itself is nothing, that is to say that it is more of a process than a thing.

It has become the umbrella term for the collection, analysis and storage of vast amounts of data. With the advent of the internet and a society that naturally creates a significant amount of data, it has meant that organizations can collect data on almost anything in huge quantities. Big data is the act of collecting and storing this data.

This can then be used for other things, like analytics, where the data collected is run through specific algorithms in order to find certain insights or outcomes that may not be obvious from simple analysis or investigation.

What Is Machine Learning?

Machine learning is the ability of technology to create algorithms themselves to find a particular pattern or conclusion and then act upon it. This itself can then be analyzed and acted upon, creating a cycle of learning and acting to create accurate and efficient processes.

So How Are They All Connected?

At present the IoT is small in comparison how how big it will eventually become, big data is a fairly well entrenched new business principal and machine learning is in a similar position to the IoT. Each are going to grow in popularity further than they already have, but they will also need the other two to grow alongside them in order to create a symbiotic environment.

Devices connected to the Internet of Things will create huge amounts of data which will all be collected and stored. This will be put into useable formats and silos by big data. Machine learning will then use these huge oceans of data to improve processes and increase self sufficiency of systems. These processes are then fed back into the devices connected to the IoT and the process can start again.

Each part has its own unique qualities that will be put to use outside of this particular cycle, the IoT in closed systems, big data in almost anything and machine learning in the automation and management of huge systems. However, in order for this particular system to work to its full potential, there needs to be co-operation and large amounts of growth in each of the segments.

So Are They The Same Thing?

Yes and no. In certain situations they create a process around themselves, each requiring the other in order to function, but at the same time can work separately for other purposes. It is often why the concepts are confused, they are all part of the same ecosystem whilst other business, social or organizational needs can be addressed with one or all of the parts. 

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