Difference between Data Mining and Machine Learning

Machine learning and Data mining help companies build tools and solutions that can make decisions and even take actions based on our behavior. They gain insight into our common habits. From there, they anticipate what we might be interested in and drive us towards the products or services most useful to us.

Both technologies also help professionals find answers to myriad problems; they provide a way to gain a deeper understanding that isn’t possible by simply looking at all of the disparate information and siloed datasets out there.

To provide a clear understanding of the differences between the two, let’s take a look at what drives each process.

Data Mining and Machine Learning

Definition of Data Mining

Think of data mining as a search for information. It could be about people, concepts, behavior, or the devices people use for personal or business use. Data mining searches through vast amounts of data from different sources.

Data mining tools search for meaning in all this information. Data mining goes deeper than the human mind can go, finding patterns in seemingly unrelated data and putting it together to predict future outcomes.

Definition of Machine Learning

Machine learning is a branch of artificial intelligence devoted to guiding robots in their understanding of human behavior. Scientists and engineers hope machine learning will eventually help machines make unguided choices by independently interpreting input from the world around them.

Scientists continue to explore another aspect of machine learning, known as deep learning, modeled after the workings of the brain itself. They hope to see automation anticipating behavior on its own, freeing it from the need to be fed information at all.

Key Differences Between Data Mining and Machine Learning

Data mining isn’t a new invention that came with the digital age. The concept has been around for over a century but came into greater public focus in the 1930s. According to hacker bits, one of the first modern moments of data mining occurred in 1936, when Alan Turing introduced the idea of a universal machine that can perform computations similar to those of modern-day computer. Forbes also reported on Turing’s development of the “Turing Test” in 1950 to determine if a computer has real intelligence or not. To pass his test, a computer needed to fool a human into believing it was also human. Just two years later, Arthur Samuel created The Samuel Checkers playing program that appears to be the world’s first self-learning program. It miraculously learned as it played and got better at winning by studying the best moves.

We have come a long way since then. Businesses are now harnessing data mining and machine learning to improve everything from their sale processes to interpreting financials for investment purposes.

Machine learning and data mining are two separate entities but are in harmony with each other. That is the reason why people use data mining and machine learning interchangeably. But, it’s imperative to understand there is a wide difference between them both.



One key difference between machine learning and data mining is how they are used applied in our everyday lives. For example, data mining is often used by machine learning to see the connections between relationships. Uber uses machine learning to calculate ETAs for rides or meal delivery times for UberEATS.

Data mining can be used for a variety of purposes, including financial research. Investors might use data mining and web scraping to look at a start-up’s financials and help determine if they want to offer to fund. A company may also use data mining to help collect data on sales trends to better inform everything from marketing to inventory needs, as well as to secure new leads. Data mining can be used to comb through social media profiles, websites, and digital assets to compile information on a company’s ideal leads to start an outreach campaign. Using data mining can lead to 10000 leads in 10 minutes. With this much information, a data scientist can even predict future trends that will help a company prepare well for what customers may want in the months and years to come.

Machine learning embodies the principles of data mining, but can also make automatic correlations and learn from them to apply to new algorithms. It’s the technology behind self-driving cars that can quickly adjust to new conditions while driving. Machine learning also provides instant recommendations when a buyer purchases a product from Amazon. These algorithms and analytics are constantly meant to be improving, so the result will only get more accurate over time. Machine learning isn’t artificial intelligence, but the ability to learn and improve is still an impressive feat.

Banks are already using and investing in machine learning to help look for fraud when credit cards are swiped by a vendor. Citibank invested in global data science enterprise Feedzai to identify and eradicate financial fraud in real-time across online and in-person banking transactions. The technology helps to rapidly identify fraud and can help retailers protect their financial activity.


Both data mining and machine learning draw from the same foundation but in different ways. A data scientist uses data mining pulls from existing information to look for emerging patterns that can help shape our decision-making processes. The clothing brand Free People, for example, uses data mining to comb through millions of customer records to shape their look for the season. The data explores best-selling items, what was returned the most, and customer feedback to help sell more clothes and enhance product recommendations. This use of data analytics can lead to improved customer experience overall.

Machine learning, on the other hand, can actually learn from the existing data and provide the foundation necessary for a machine to teach itself. Zebra Medical Vision developed a machine learning algorithm to predict cardiovascular conditions and events that lead to the death of over 500,000 Americans each year.

Machine learning can look at patterns and learn from them to adapt behavior for future incidents, while data mining is typically used as an information source for machine learning to pull from. Although data scientists can set up data mining to automatically look for specific types of data and parameters, it doesn’t learn and apply knowledge on its own without human interaction. Data mining also can’t automatically see the relationship between existing pieces of data with the same depth that machine learning can.


Data Mining vs Machine Learning

Collecting data is only part of the challenge; the other part is making sense of it all. The right software and tools are needed to be able to analyze and interpret the huge amounts of information data scientists collect and find recognizable patterns to act upon. Otherwise, the data would largely be unusable unless data scientists could devote their time to looking for these complexes, often subtle and seemingly random patterns on their own. And anyone even somewhat familiar with data science and data analytics knows this would be an arduous, time-consuming task.

Businesses could use data to shape their sales forecasting or determine what types of products their customers really want to buy. For example, Wal-Mart collects point of sales from over 3,000 stores for its data warehouse. Vendors can see this information and use it to identify buying patterns and guide their inventory predictions and processes for the future.

It’s true that data mining can reveal some patterns through classifications and sequence analysis. However, machine learning takes this concept a step further by using the same algorithms data mining uses to automatically learn from and adapt to the collected data. As malware becomes an increasingly pervasive problem, machine learning can look for patterns in how data in systems or the cloud is accessed. Machine learning also looks at patterns to identify which files are actually malware, with a high level of accuracy. All this is done without the need for constant monitoring by a human. If abnormal patterns are detected, an alert can be sent out so action can be taken to prevent the malware from spreading.


Both data mining and machine learning can help improve the accuracy of the data collected. However, data mining and how it’s analyzed generally pertains to how the data is organized and collected. Data mining may include using extracting and scraping software to pull from thousands of resources and sift through data that researchers, data scientists, investors, and businesses use to look for patterns and relationships that help improve their bottom line.

One of the primary foundations of machine learning is data mining. Data mining can be used to extract more accurate data. This ultimately helps refine your machine learning to achieve better results. A person may miss the multiple connections and relationships between data, while machine learning technology can pinpoint all of these moving pieces to draw a highly accurate conclusion to help shape a machine’s behavior.

Machine learning can enhance relationship intelligence in CRM systems to help sales teams better understand their customers and make a connection with them. Combined with machine learning, a company’s CRM can analyze past actions that lead to a conversion or customer satisfaction feedback. It can also be used to learn how to predict which products and services will sell the best and how to shape marketing messages to those customers.


Future of Machine Learning

The future is bright for data science as the amount of data will only increase. By 2020, our accumulated digital universe of data will grow from 4.4 zettabytes to 44 zettabytes, as reported by Forbes. We’ll also create 1.7 megabytes of new information every second for every human being on the planet.

As we amass more data, the demand for advanced data mining and machine learning techniques will force the industry to evolve in order to keep up. We’ll likely see more overlap between data mining and machine learning as the two intersect to enhance the collection and usability of large amounts of data for analytics purposes.

We’re just scratching the surface of what machine learning can do and how it will spread to help scale our analytical abilities and improve our technology. According to reporting from Geek wire, as our billions of machines become connected, everything from hospitals to factories to highways can be improved with IoT technology that can learn from other machines.

But some experts have a different idea about data mining and machine learning altogether. Instead of focusing on their differences, you could argue that they both concern themselves with the same question: “How we can learn from data?” At the end of the day, how we acquire and learn from data is really the foundation for emerging technology. It’s an exciting time not just for data scientists but for everyone that uses data in some form.


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