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10 Bits: The Data News Hot List

by Travis Korte
A soon-to-be-launched connected device aims to help golfers improve their swing.

This week’s list of data news highlights covers June 7-13 and includes articles about a “smart cup” that can analyze the molecular content of beverages and a ruling from a federal appeals court that found searchable book databases to be fair use of copyrighted works.

1. Big Data Helps Conservation International Discover New Species

Scientists at nonprofit environmental organization Conservation International (CI) collect a range of biodiversity and climate data at 16 sites across 4 continents, but managing and analyzing this information is a mammoth task. To make things easier, the organization partnered with Hewlett-Packard (HP), which provided a cloud-based analytics platform and accompanying services to process the large amounts of sensor and image data CI collects. Using the system, CI discovered two new species and identify one that is endangered. The partnership between the two organizations, known as “HP Earth Insights,” was launched in 2013 and has also helped CI track declines in populations of 60 endangered species, as well as quantify the rate at which the rain forest is shrinking.

2. “Smart Cup” Will Analyze the Molecules in Your Beverage

Vessyl, a computerized cup that can analyze liquids and determine molecular content, is now available for pre-order. The cup uses a variety of sensors to detect nutritional content, as well as caffeine, alcohol, and other chemical characteristics. The cup, created by San Francisco-based startup Mark One, is intended to help users track their liquid intake over time and make better health decisions based on the trends Vessyl observes.

3. Sensor-Based Hardware To Help Golfers Improve Their Game

Connecticut-based Arccos Golf LLC will soon offer a sensor-enabled golf club handle that can track golfers’ activity and send the data to a nearby smartphone. The company licensed shot-tracking sensor technology from golf company Callaway to do much of the data collection and designed the device around the sensors. Professional players have begun using similar systems in recent years, but the Arccos offering will be priced for an ordinary consumer. The company hopes to ship its product in late summer 2014.

4. Searchable Book Database is Fair Use

A federal appeals court ruled this week that a full-text searchable database of millions of books constitutes fair use of the copyrighted works. The ruling, which came in a case brought against Google for its Books product, held that the database was a transformative use of the copyrighted works. The ruling will allow Google to continue offering its product to the many researchers in linguistics, text analytics, and digital humanities who use Books for academic purposes.

5. United States, Honduras Test Hurricane Response Mapping Tool

This week, the United States and Honduras tested their collaborative GeoSHAPE software, a hurricane response tool that integrates a variety of emergency data sources and displays it on a web-based map. It includes information such as available hospitals, helicopter landing zones, food, water, and medical supplies. During the 2010 Haiti earthquake, relief efforts were stymied by poor geospatial data sharing capabilities, and GeoSHAPE’s creators hope it will bolster this kind of information sharing in the future.

6. Autism Group Uses Google Cloud Platform to Host Research Genomes

Advocacy group Autism Speaks is using Google’s Cloud Platform to create a database of sequenced genomes from people with autism and their family members. The database, which is intended to help spur new discoveries about autism, will make its 1,000 already-sequenced genomes openly accessible to the public through an application programming interface (API). Ultimately, Autism Speaks hopes to collect 10,000 genomes.

7. Anonymized Transaction Data a Big Seller for MasterCard

MasterCard sees credit card transaction data sales as a growing revenue area. The company, which handles payments for 2 billion cardholders and tens of millions of merchants, sells anonymized transaction data to retailers, banks, and government agencies. Retailers, for example, have used the data to analyze market trends and make sales and marketing decisions.  One of the company’s early insights using its own data is that there has been a spike in spending on groceries in Brazil ahead of the World Cup, as food sellers have raised prices to address the influx of attendees.

8. Salesforce.com Launches Wearable Tech Developer Kit

This week, Salesforce.com launched Wear, a set of software developer tools for creating applications for wearable devices, including smart watches and headsets. Specifically, the company hopes Wear will make it easier for developers to make new business applications. As part of the launch, the company also released six applications for different wearable devices, including an interface for medical image manipulation and a sales productivity app that lets users check who is attending a meeting.

9. Baidu to Track Flu Trends

Chinese web services company Baidu has begun working with the Chinese Center for Disease Control to use search data to forecast flu outbreaks. The project, which was inspired by Google Flu Trends, will track each time one of Baidu’s 160 million daily search engine users types in “cold,” “fever,” and other terms linked to the flu. The traditional hospital-based flu monitoring system in China is less reliable than that of developed countries, since many people do not visit a doctor regularly, so alternative data sources are sorely needed.

10. Google Adds Social Media to Crisis Response Products

Google is adding social media data and crowdsourced data into its crisis response products. The company’s Crisis Map, which displays relevant information on resources and hazards to emergency responders, will now allow users to enter relevant information in real time. Google’s Public Alerts, which offers emergency alerts through Google Maps and Google Now, will add a feed of relevant tweets to its alerts. Twitter’s value for rapid reporting has been demonstrated in crises from the 2009 Iranian election protests and the 2010 Haiti earthquake, but this will be the first time it has been integrated into Google’s crisis response efforts.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Amateur Player 

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