Natural Language Processing

What is Natural Language Processing?

Data is valuable, but only if you’re able to unlock its potential and use it.

Natural language processing, or NLP, is a type of artificial intelligence (AI) that can understand the words in your database. It mines that information, chews on it awhile, and then provides actionable insights–or even acts on its own if you tell it to–that help move your business forward.

In a traditional spreadsheet, there are tidy rows and columns that are neatly labeled. The formulas used for calculations may be complex, but they’re logic-based so anyone can readily understand how they manipulate the different cells and data.

Language is also data, but it is rarely as clearly ordered and concise as numbers in a spreadsheet. Thanks to things like sarcasm, tone of voice, colloquialisms and context, it can be a complex process to understand what another person is saying. Natural language processing is how software and machines determine the meaning of human language and writing.

How Does Natural Language Processing Work?

From a user’s perspective, you already know how NLP works–you ask Siri to block off time in your calendar, tell Alexa to play some music while you cook dinner, or ignore the messages that Gmail has thoughtfully put in your spam folder.

But how does all that happen?

First, language is provided to the computer and if it’s audio, it is converted to text.

Then, complex algorithms are applied to analyze the text for syntax (the way words are ordered) and semantics (the meaning conveyed by the words).

Once the computer believes it understands the input language, it can respond based on the parameters provided–whether that’s a verbal response like those provided by Siri or Alexa, moving an email into a spam folder, or even flagging a patient’s health records because of a potential issue that’s been identified.

How Can Natural Language Processing Work for my Company?

As NLP matures, more and more use cases will emerge but there are already plenty of important things it can do with your data. A few examples include…

  • Translating your content into other languages
  • Analyzing feedback to determine if customers are satisfied
  • Identifying advertising and marketing opportunities
  • Finding gaps that can lead to new product development
  • Developing chatbots that can help your clients with tasks or questions on your website
  • Flagging concerning symptoms, health history, or a potentially problematic medication in a patient’s electronic health record
  • Helping filter out implicit bias in hiring
  • & more!

NLP allows you to leverage your data in ways that previously would have been far too time-consuming… if not downright impossible.

If you have a language-based data problem, there’s a good chance NLP could help you solve it. Contact us today to learn more!

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- Dan Reynolds, Founder We Build Databases -

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