This week’s list of data news highlights covers February 21-27, 2015 and includes articles about using predictive analytics to fight cyberattacks and what data mining can reveal about Indian cuisine.
1. Fighting Wildfires with Data
California firefighters now have mobile access to moisture, wind, map, and other data to improve how they respond to the state’s wildfires. The new resource is a result of the California Natural Resources Agency’s efforts to consolidate data from 30 different state organizations’ data centers into a single repository. Firefighters will use this data to make on-the-spot logistical decisions to address the erratic nature of wildfires. Other state agencies and citizens will also be able to access and benefit from the agency’s information, which, for example, contains data on water flows and soil erosion useful to farmers.
2. Learning About a Cyberattack Before It Happens
The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, a research organization for the U.S. intelligence community, is developing a program to predict cyberattacks before they happen. The program, called Cyberattack Automated Unconventional Sensor Environment (CAUSE), uses predictive analytics to correlate clues, such as malicious software purchases and signs of a target being investigated, to identify when and where an attacker might strike. As most cyberattacks are identified after they have already happened, CAUSE aims to give potential targets an advanced warning to help them thwart the attack.
3. Los Angeles Gets an Architecture Database
Los Angeles now has a database with over 20,000 entries that highlight the city’s many architectural landmarks. The database, called HistoricPlacesLA, was made possible by a partnership between the City of Los Angeles and the Getty Conservation Institute and is freely accessible to the public. Each entry can be viewed on a map of the city and many are tagged with images and historical descriptions.
4. DNA Database Aids Houston Rape Investigations
The City of Houston’s effort to process a backlog of over 6,600 rape kits has resulted in 850 hits in the FBI’s DNA database, 29 charges filed, and six convictions—so far. Test results from the kits are uploaded to the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, a nationwide DNA profile database, and processed to see if they match a suspect’s DNA. Houston has been working to test these rape kits, some of which are decades old, since 2013, and experts say other cities have similar backlogs.
5. More Transparency in Healthcare Pricing
A new website called Guroo allows consumers to compare healthcare prices from major U.S. health insurers. The tool was developed by the Health Care Cost Institute, a non-profit healthcare research organization, and allows users to examine average prices for 70 healthcare services in more than 300 U.S. cities. Guroo uses data from 40 million Americans’ medical claims under health insurers Aetna, Assurant Health, Humana, and United Healthcare.
6. Enabling the Quantified Kid
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has a new program aimed at helping kids stay healthy with wearable technology. The program, called Kid Power, will give 10,000 kids in New York, Boston, and Dallas a wearable fitness tracker and monitor their physical activity for 30 days. UNICEF will use this data to learn how to encourage kids to be more active, such as by providing incentives for a greater number of steps taken.
7. Educating Renters on Bad Landlords
A new website allows renters in New York City to identify landlords or properties with a history of code violations with data from multiple city agencies. The site, developed by rental listings site Apartable, compiles publicly available city data dating back to 2009 on things like complaints and violations for all of New York City’s 900,000 buildings and combines this with tenant reviews of landlords, properties, and management companies. The site was developed to empower renters who typically have limited access to information on landlords.
8. Scientists Develop an International Fossil Database
A group of over 20 paleontologists, molecular biologists, and computer programmers across five countries have developed the Fossil Calibration Database, a freely and publicly available resource on highly curated fossil data. The database was developed to improve the accuracy of “molecular clocks”—the practice of identifying the ages of plants and animal groups that lack their own robust fossil records with a better understanding of evolutionary timelines.
Computer scientists studying ingredient pairings in Indian recipes have discovered that flavor pairings in Indian food have fundamentally different relationships than Western European and North American cuisines. By mining over 2,500 recipes across eight Indian sub-cuisines, researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Jodhpur identified that foods are less likely to appear in the same dish if they have similar flavors, unlike western cuisines that typically have ingredients with similar flavors.
10. The Internet of Things Gets a Starter Kit
IBM and microchip company ARM have released a two-part starter kit for the Internet of Things. Consisting of a sensor board and a microcontroller, or miniature computer, the kit is designed to let innovators quickly and easily create new connected gadgets. Sensors in the kit can be monitored in real time on an IBM website, and kit owners have access to a suite of analytics tools developed by IBM and other companies.