This week’s list of data news highlights covers March 7-13, 2015 and includes articles about how data can improve gender equality around the world and new technology that can predict potholes before they ruin a road.
Apple has launched a service called ResearchKit that allows researchers to use data collected by iPhones to advance medical research. ResearchKit is designed to make it easy for researchers to build applications that utilize the iPhone’s data gathering capabilities, as well as allow patients to use their iPhone to perform diagnostic tests that rely on objective data. ResearchKit is open source and will be released next month.
A new report from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation cites data collection and analysis as a valuable tool in solving problems and measuring progress in the fight against gender inequality. The report, called “No Ceilings”, uses 850,000 data points on gender issues to identify progress and shortcomings in gender equality around the world.
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory have developed a platform for the Internet of Things capable of hosting all the sensors needed to make a city “smart”. The platform, called Waggle, allows users to mix and match combinations of sensors and install programs on a low power computer board that can be deployed to collect and report data in real time. Argonne National Laboratory is working with the City of Chicago to use Waggle in the city’s Array of Things project that is devoted to enabling data-driven policy decisions.
Personal genetics company 23andMe announced it will use the database of its 850,000 customers’ genomes to develop drugs for common and rare diseases. The database links a customer’s genetic info with their health information and serves as a valuable resource for discovering potential drug targets and mechanisms behind diseases. 23andMe’s new initiative differs from existing collaborations with pharmaceutical companies in that it is exploring any opportunity for developing new treatments, not restricted by a predefined goal.
Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and John Thune (R-SD) introduced legislation aimed at improving access to Medicare and Medicaid claims data and modernizing the Qualified Entity (QE) program. The QE program allows for organizations to analyze Medicare data and the bill would allow these organizations to perform more advanced analytics to better inform healthcare service providers. The bill would create a committee to develop a new interoperability standard for electronic health record systems, which some in Congress criticize for their inability to effectively share health data.
A new app called GeoMall is attempting to use the Internet of Things to improve shopping. GeoMall relies on iBeacons—small, inexpensive, low-power location transmitters that can be placed around stores—to help consumers navigate malls and push relevant information to users’ phones based on their location. Retailers can then use GeoMall to carry out analytics on customer behavior and understand foot traffic through their stores.
The Indian environment ministry’s Central Pollution Control Board will now review data on New Delhi’s air quality before making it available to the public. Officials say this change is to ensure that the data is accurate, however critics are concerned that this is an attempt to suppress the raw data from being revealed to the public. Additionally, critics fear that this extra step will cause delays in the time it takes for the data to be made available, thus making the data less valuable, and although the government says it intends to release the data daily, nobody works at the Central Pollution Control Board at night or on the weekends.
Facebook announced a new service for companies that will allow them to better understand their customers. The service lets a marketer access anonymized user data to determine what they are saying about brands, activities, subjects, and events. Facebook expects this data will allow companies to better understand the needs of their consumers and therefore develop better products based on those needs.
Researchers at Nottingham Trent University in the United Kingdom are developing technology that can predict potholes before they ruin a road. Their software analyzes data collected by road surface scanners that can detect subtle signs of deterioration in a road that are often precursors to potholes and cracks in the road, which can be costly to repair. The researchers hope their software will be adopted by governments and road authorities and encourage more cost effective maintenance.
The U.S. Department of Commerce has appointed Ian Kalin as its first chief data officer. Kalin, formerly the director of open data at Socrata, will lead data initiatives at the agency that has referred to itself as “America’s data agency”, given the wide breadth of its data programs, which include the Census Bureau and the Patent and Trademark Office.