What are Neural Networks

Juliet D'cruz

What are Neural Networks? 

Today, artificial intelligence or AI has become crucial to accelerate growth for a variety of organizations across business verticals. It is a true competitive advantage and helps companies become more efficient. In fact, the technology has the potential to reshape virtually every business, right from the automotive sector healthcare to aviation and supply chain management. The concepts related to AI remained in papers for a long time, but with other emerging technologies, higher computational power, and the rise of big data analytics, AI applications have now come to life. 

In this digital world, every company is under the pressure of transforming the massive amounts of data available into actionable insights. Here, AI is what turns such data into insight and impact. The subset of artificial intelligence called machine learning is what is making image recognition, fraud detection, voice assistants, and driverless cars possible. Diving into the machine learning concepts, it is inevitable to come across deep learning. Even when you enroll in any of the best free online courses based on machine learning, you will come across this important concept. 

This article gives a brief overview of deep learning and focuses more on one of its important topics called neural networks. 

What is Deep Learning? 

Deep learning, a branch of machine learning, focuses on teaching computer systems how to learn from large amounts of data so as to create patterns for effective decision-making. Unlike general machine learning algorithms that are limited in their learning process, deep learning algorithms can improve their performance when more data is provided to them. The availability of massive amounts of data along with high computational power has led to an increase in deep learning capabilities. Deep learning uses neural networks, inspired by the biological neuron of the human brain, that is trained using large sets of labeled data to learn the features without the need for manual feature extraction. 

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Let us now understand what neural networks actually are. 

Neural Network Explained 

Neural networks, or more specifically artificial neural networks, are simulations of biological neurons in the human brain. In other words, they are computing systems that can identify hidden trends and correlations in raw data and then cluster and classify them through various algorithms. To do so, they involve a large number of processors that are arranged in tiers and operate in parallel. There are basically three layers in a neural network – an input layer, hidden layer, and output layers. Generally, there is one input layer and one output layer but multiple hidden layers. The more the number of hidden layers, the more efficient the neural network becomes. 

This is how a typical neural network looks:

As you can see, the three layers consist of various nodes (neurons), and the nodes in each layer use the outputs of all nodes in the previous layer as inputs and are thus interconnected. Each neuron is assigned a weight whose value can be increased or decreased during the learning process to get the desired output. 

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We mentioned earlier that a neural network is fed with massive amounts of raw data. The input layer is where this data is fed. This is often labeled data, meaning for each input, the network is told what the output should be. By providing more and more input data, the network is trained to recognize patterns in speech or images, and the weights associated with each node are automatically adjusted. Over time, according to a specified learning rule, the network is trained successfully to perform the desired task accurately. 

These neural networks are widely used in deep learning applications and have become popular for complex identification applications like text translation, facial recognition, and voice recognition. 

Types of Neural Networks

When referring to common engineering applications, you will come across three types of neural networks generally, namely:

  • Feedforward neural networks

This kind of neural network consists of one input layer, one or more hidden layers, and an output layer. It is named so because the information flows in the forward direction only, i.e. from input towards output without any feedback. These networks have different weights across each node. 

  • Convolutional neural networks

The CNNs consist of three major types of layers called convolutional layer, pooling layer, and fully-connected layer. It is specifically known for its outstanding performance with speech, image, or audio signal inputs for classification tasks. They provide a more scalable approach to image classification and object recognition tasks. 

  • Recurrent neural networks

The RNNs are popular for their use in Natural language processing and speech recognition tasks. Unlike other neural networks, RNNs have ‘memory’ as they store information from prior inputs to influence the current input and output. These networks have the same weight parameter within each layer of the network. 

Learn More about Neural Networks 

In this article, we provided you with a brief introduction to neural networks. If you want to explore more about this exciting topic, you can take a deep learning course online. Today, many jobs demand the knowledge of deep learning and neural networks, and by polishing your knowledge through a training course, you will gain a competitive edge over your peers.   


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