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10 Bits: The Data News Hotlist

by Joshua New

This week’s list of data news highlights covers February 28 – March 6, 2015 and includes articles about how connected cars are making road safer and a government database that is reducing corruption in South Africa.

1. Commerce Department Creates the Commerce Data Advisory Council

The Commerce Department formed the Commerce Data Advisory Council (CDAC) to improve how the government uses data to foster economic growth. CDAC will focus on making government data easier to access and use internally, as well as by the private sector and the public. CDAC is comprised of 19 leaders from tech companies, academia, nonprofits, local governments, and includes the Center for Data Innovation’s Director Daniel Castro.

2. Bipartisan Group of Senators Support the Internet of Things

Senators Deb Fischer, (R-NE), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and Brian Schatz (D-HI) issued a resolution recognizing the social and economic benefits of the Internet of Things. The resolution called for minimizing regulations that could potentially hinder the development of the Internet of Things by the private sector, and it emphasized the importance of promoting the growth of this new market.

3. Saving Forests with Data

A new project proposed by researchers at Oregon State University aims to use data to combat pests that are killing off forests. The project combines decades of satellite data, airplane mapping data, and ground field data to help researchers better manage outbreaks of destructive pests, like the mountain pine beetle and western spruce budworm, around the world. Combining these datasets gives researchers detailed maps of how forests are affected by these insects over time, and helps determine when, why, and where outbreaks occur.

4. Making the Road Safer with Connected Cars

Volvo’s cars will start automatically transmitting sensor data that will warn other drivers about dangerous road conditions. Volvo’s new connected cars have sensors that can detect things like sudden swerves, caused by roads covered in black ice, for example, and then communicate this danger to nearby drivers that could also be affected. The subscription based service will be available on newer Internet-connected cars, and Volvo hopes the program could eventually be expanded to all cars, irrespective of make.

5. Building Better Video Games with Player Analytics

Google introduced a new service designed to give video game developers data-driven insights about how gamers play games on their mobile devices. The service, called Player Analytics, will help developers understand what players are actually doing in their games and how these actions align with business goals, thus improving how developers understand the financial viability of their products.

6. Accelerating Alzheimer’s Research with Data

A partnership between the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other public and private healthcare organizations have developed a data portal to expand the access to research data on Alzheimer’s disease by the healthcare community. The portal was developed as part of the NIH’s Accelerating Medicines Partnership, which focuses on reducing the time and cost of developing new diagnostics and treatments for fighting diseases.

7. Fighting Corruption in South Africa with a Government Database

South Africa’s National Treasury is launching a new database of government suppliers in an effort to fight corruption. The database will interface with several government agencies to verify a supplier’s tax status, identify public sector officials conducting business with these suppliers, help identify problematic trends, and more accurately calculate costs. The National Treasury is developing this database to make up for the many poorly automated, disparate government supply chain management programs and weak compliance controls, which enable corruption in the government.

8. Tracking Drug Shortages With an App

The Food and Drug Administration has released a mobile app to help healthcare workers and pharmacists monitor drug shortages. The app, called DrugShortages, allows doctors and pharmacists, to track current shortages, learn when shortages are resolved, and identify if a drug has been discontinued. DrugShortages allows for healthcare workers to quickly access this important information, as well as report drug supply issues, to make better decisions about patient treatment.

9. Making Your Phone Artificially Intelligent

Telecommunications company Qualcomm is attempting to bring artificial intelligence capabilities to consumers’ smartphones. The cognitive computing technology, called Zeroth, will perform basic tasks and anticipate user actions in an attempt to reduce the effort needed to operate a smartphone. For example, Zeroth can recognize objects in front of the phone’s camera when a user takes a picture to automatically optimize settings, as well as automatically adjust power usage based on users’ habits.

10. Improving Construction with Data Analytics

Construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar has invested in predictive analytics company Uptake to develop predictive diagnostic tools for its machines. The tools will analyze data from sensors on Caterpillar’s equipment to help identify problems before they occur, encouraging preventative maintenance and reducing downtime.

Image: flickr user Rick Cooper.

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