This week’s list of data news highlights covers July 6-12 and includes articles on Kaggle’s rapid growth, hi-res 3D brain imaging, and Facebook’s new “Graph Search.”
1. Kaggle hits 100,000 members
The San Francisco-based data science competition company has reached a big milestone in only its third full year of operation. Kaggle, which partners with companies and non-profits to host coding challenges that solve problems relevant to the organizations, has been central to the growth of the data science community since its inception.
Africa has a new open data platform, courtesy of the African Development Bank. The platform, which features data from all 54 African countries, includes social and economic statistics, as well as data on food security, infrastructure and other development topics. The open data platform will provide a centralized repository for regional, national and international data, and the creators hope that its applications will include helping track the progress of Millennium Development Goals (pictured, AIDS estimated deaths) in Africa.
3. “Smart diapers” alert parents to child health
A New York couple has developed a “smart diaper” technology to alert parents when certain chemical warning signs are detected in their child’s urine. The device works like a QR-code and can be scanned with a phone app in order to gather data that can be used to detect dehydration, infections and other health conditions. The diapers will be tested in hospitals this summer, and the couple hopes eventually to get approval from the FDA to release their product to the general public.
President Obama touted open data as a source of new jobs, pointing to a number of start-ups that have created businesses supported by government data. One firm, iTriage, offers a medical information app that has been downloaded by about 9.5 million users and employs over 100 people. The use of Data.gov is increasing; with 213,000 visitors in May the traffic has doubled in the past year.
5. Catching pedophiles with a data-driven chat-bot
Using natural language processing and machine learning techniques, a group of Spanish researchers have created a chat-bot programmed to detect potential pedophiles online. The bot poses as a teenager and sends messages to the target individual, updating its “aggressiveness” when the target offers certain hints of possible criminal inclinations. Although still a research prototype, the system could have applications in a variety of other online crime contexts.
6. Visualizing the human brain like never before
For decades, scientists studying brain physiology have had to rely on low-resolution or incomplete scans, which have presented a significant barrier to research and innovation. Enter BigBrain, a high-resolution digital atlas of the brain in three dimensions, which was unveiled last month and which will soon be available to explore online. BigBrain is an initiative of the European Human Brain Project, an effort to create a digital model of human brain function over 10 years.
7. Data analytics for doctor evaluations
A number of hospitals are considering deploying data analytics to measure doctor performance. Marnie Baker, a pediatrician leading the charge for physician performance analytics in California, has met resistance among doctors. One critic worries that the system could push doctors to avoid high-risk or costly patients.
8. Facebook’s “Graph Search” sees widespread launch
Facebook has released “Graph Search,” a new tool that makes it easier for its users to search social data. Graph Search allows Facebook users to find information in their social network using plain English such as, “Languages my friends speak” or “Indian restaurants liked by my friends from India.” The technology uses a host of data science techniques, such as natural language processing, machine learning, and distributed processing of queries.
9. Actian’s new big data offerings
Database company Actian announced the launch of two new enterprise data initiatives. The first is the Actian Data Cloud Platform, a cloud-based data integration platform targeted at software-as-a-service (SAAS) companies. The second is the ParAccel Big Data Analytics Platform, a flexible enterprise analytics engine that can switch between batch-processed Hadoop computation and smaller-scale ad-hoc querying.
10. The Israeli military’s tech spinoffs
Israel, which attracts more venture capital investment per capita than any other country in the world, fosters a “military entrepreneurial complex.” In addition to its military role, the Israel Defense Forces also serves as a technology incubator in which data science techniques designed for defense and warfare end up repackaged for commercial purposes. One example of this is Any.Do, a start-up founded by developers who worked on enemy-tracking software, only to apply their technologies to predicting consumer preferences.