mobile devices

Machine Learning on Mobile Devices

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You: What? You can’t be serious?  Machine Learning on Mobile Devices?

Me: The simple answer is ‘Yes you can!”

You: But, what about all the complex data processing, CPU or GPU, and everything else that is needed for machine learning?

Me: Yes you are correct, those things might not be needed. What’s the answer to everything in IT?

You: It Depends ?

Me: Exactly. Yes It Depends on what you are doing. In most cases you don’t need large amounts of machine processing power to do machine learning. Except if you are doing image processing. Then you do need a bit of power to support that work.

You: But how can a mobile device be used for machine learning?

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Me: It Depends! 🙂  It depends on what you are doing. Most of the data processing power needed is for creating the models. That is what most people talk about. Very few people talk about the deployment of machine learning. Deployment, as in, using the machine learning models in your applications.

You: But why mobile devices? That sounds a bit silly?

Me: It does a bit. But when you think about it, how much do you use your mobile phone and tablet?  Where else have you seen mobile devices being used?

You: I use these all the time, to do nearly everything. Just like everyone else I know.

Me: Exactly!  and where else have you seen mobile devices being used?

You: Everywhere! hotels, bars, shops, hospitals, everywhere!

Me: Exactly. And it kind of makes sense to have machine learning scoring done at the point of capture of the data and not some hours or days or weeks later in some data warehouse or something else.

You: But what about the processing power of these devices. They aren’t powerful enough to run the machine learning models? Or are they?

Me: What is a machine learning model? In a simple way it is a mathematical formula of the data that calculates a particular outcome. Something that is a bit more complicated than using a sum function.  Could a mobile device do that easily?

You: Yes. That should be really easy and fast for mobile devices? But machine learning is complex. People keep telling me how complex it is and how difficult it is!

Me: True it can be, but for most problems it can be as simple as writing a few lines of code to create a model. 3-4 lines of code in some languages. But the applying of the the machine learning model can be a simple task (maybe 1 line of code), although some simple data formatting might be needed, but that is a simple task too.

You: So, how can a machine learning model be run on a mobile device?

Me: Programmers write code to run applications on mobile devices. This code can be extended to include the machine learning model. This can be used to score or label the data or do some other processing. A few lines of code.  A good alternative is to create a web service to all the remove scoring of the data.

You: The programming languages used for mobile development are a bit different to most other applications. Surely those mobile device languages don’t support machine learning.

Me: You’d be surprised by what’s available.

You: OK, What languages can I try? Where can I get started?

Me: Check out Firebase ML Kit, Apple CoreML and TensorFlow Lite. Those should be more than enough for you to get started with. There are a few others. But start with those.

You. Brilliant, thank you Brendan. I’ll let you know how I get on with those.