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10 Bits: The Data News Hot List

by Travis Korte
Scientists at the University of Tokyo have developed a model to predict evacuation behavior during disasters.

This week’s list of data news highlights covers August 30-September 5 and includes articles about a federal government initiative to use sensors to reduce power consumption and a fast food company using data to create healthy and delicious dishes.

1. Connected EKG Could Help Save Heart Patients

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a mobile electrocardiogram (EKG) built by San Francisco-based medical device startup AliveCor. Users can hold the device, which doubles as a smartphone case, to get a reading on their heart beat patterns and alert their doctors to problems. AliveCor hopes the device can be used to help people suffering from heart disease or using a pacemaker to monitor their heart health.

2. Applying IBM’s Watson to Law Enforcement

IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence system, most famous for beating human contestants on Jeopardy in 2011, could have useful law enforcement applications. For example, Watson can process paperwork related to investigations much more quickly than humans can, meaning detectives can prioritize the best leads in cases as quickly as possible. Watson could also help police evaluate and improve their use of military equipment, which can be difficult for humans to study given the large amounts of data associated with militarization programs.

3. Connected Sensors Help Eel Farmers Monitor Their Stock

SK Telecom, a South Korean wireless operator, is working with eel farmers in the country to develop connected water sensors that can aid in aquaculture management. The company’s first such pilot wirelessly transmits data on water temperature, pH, and dissolved oxygen levels in eel tanks to a data hub that farmers can monitor with an app. This data is useful for farmers, since small changes in these variables can be fatal to young eels if left unchecked. The company plans to expand its pilot to 450 eel farms in the country in 2015.

4. Designing a Healthy Menu with Big Data

Cambridge, MA-based fast food startup Clover Food Labs is using data to develop its menus in hopes of creating vegetarian and vegan meal options tasty enough to compete with less animal-friendly fast food companies. Clover uses information on seasonality, past orders, social media feedback, and even customer surveys to make adjustments to its menu, sometimes changing its offerings by up to 80 percent over the course of a month. The company also keeps track of changes in suppliers ingredients that may make a subtle difference in taste. Clover’s founder hopes to one day create a nationwide chain based on the model.

5. Predicting Evacuation Patterns During Disasters

A team of researchers from the University of Tokyo have developed a model to predict evacuation patterns during large-scale disasters. Using global positioning system (GPS) data taken from mobile phones, the team was able to predict how people would filter out of city centers and away from dangerous areas. The team hopes this information can be useful to emergency responders during disasters, as well as transportation planners building cities to improve resilience in the face of catastrophe.

6. Using Internet of Things to Reduce Power Usage in Government Buildings

The General Services Administration (GSA) has been experimenting with a network of connected sensors in its buildings designed to cut energy use, and it is now expanding the effort to other federal buildings across the country. So far, GSA has identified more than 10,000 inefficiencies and faults in its own buildings. The agency has also modified its power systems in response to some of these observations, now linking desk power sources with employee identification badges, meaning that power at an employee’s desk only turns on when he or she swipes an identification card at the building’s entrance. Managers have access to all the resulting data to track trends over time and make improvements.

7. Predicting Political Outcomes Using Data Analytics

Some political data analysis firms have expanded beyond voter microtargeting and now model the political process itself, predicting bill outcomes and how candidates might vote if elected to office. One service, from Washington, D.C.-based government analytics firm FiscalNote, can predict the outcome of bills in Congress and state legislatures with an accuracy of over 95 percent using data on past votes, electoral statistics, and campaign finance information. The company expects the service to help a variety of users, including businesses who can use the forecasts to predict regulatory changes that will affect their operations.

8. Internet of Things Startup to Connect Millions of Burglar Alarms

This week, French wireless network startup Sigfox announced a partnership with European security system provider Securitas Direct to connect millions of burglar alarms in Spain to a wireless network. The network will provide Securitas Direct with a means of monitoring the alarms even if the phone lines are down or the mobile networks are overloaded. Sigfox’s network is optimized for Internet of Things devices, such as burglar alarms, which only send transmit amounts of data intermittently.

9. Satellite Imaging Data for the Masses

On account of looser regulations around public access to satellite-generated imagery in the United States, this data is increasingly accessible to businesses conducting market research, logistics, and other applications. For example, manufacturing companies are using satellite imagery to analyze competitors by monitoring shipments in and out of facilities. Companies can also use the images to see when neighborhoods are being built up and use the information to help forecast demand and strategically place future store locations.

10. UK Mapping Agency to Release Data on Every Public Green Space

The Ordnance Survey, the United Kingdom’s national mapping agency, announced this week that it would soon release information and statistics on all public green spaces in England and Wales as open data. The release will also include a map of all green spaces being developed. The agency hopes developers will use the data to create applications, including those the government could eventually use to provide services related to parks.

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