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10 Bits: The Data News Hotlist

by Joshua New
Large Array

This week’s list of data news highlights covers March 21-29, 2015 and includes articles about Facebook’s artificial intelligence systems and an effort to open source the human body’s data.

1. FTC Creates Office to Focus on the Internet of Things

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) launched its new Office of Technology Research and Investigation to stay abreast of the policy considerations raised by new technologies like the Internet of Things. The office was born out of the FTC’s mobile technology unity, which was initially created to tackle the challenges associated with smartphones and mobile devices. The new office will conduct research on the Internet of Things, including connected cars, smart homes, and the data connected devices generate. Kristin Cohen, current chief of the mobile unit, will lead the office.

2. University Group Wins the National Data Science Bowl

Team Deap Sea from Ghent University won Booz Allen Hamilton and Kaggle’s inaugural National Data Science Bowl. The team of graduate students and post-doctoral researchers developed an algorithm that automates the analysis of plankton populations to measure ocean health, reducing the time it would take to analyze this data from over a century, via manual processing, to just 90 days. The National Data Science Bowl saw 15,120 submissions from over one thousand teams competing to help develop better methods of assessing ocean health.

3. Commerce Department Gets a Chief Data Officer

U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker has appointed Ian Kalin as the department’s first chief data officer. Kalin, a presidential innovation fellow and former director at the open data company Socrata, will oversee improvements to data flows between the department’s numerous products, programs, and services. Kalin will also focus on developing the department’s open data initiatives, as some datasets were criticized by the White House for being difficult to discover or not machine readable.

4. Senate Move Forward with a National Strategy for the Internet of Things

The U.S. Senate voted unanimously to pass a bipartisan resolution calling for a national strategy on the Internet of Things. Senators Deb Fischer (R-NE), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced the resolution earlier this month to promote the potential for economic growth and consumer benefit offered by the Internet of Things. The resolution serves as a primer for future congressional action on the Internet of Things to ensure new policies encourage innovation while protecting consumers.

5. Automating Our Understanding of Space Data

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed an automated solution to process the massive influx of data expected from the planned Square Kilometer Array, a radio telescope with unprecedented capacity to collect data on stars, galaxies, and hydrogen gas clouds. The researchers tapped the university’s high-powered computing network, called HTCondor, to perform automated analysis of small bits of data from the telescope in a manner of seconds, 20 to 30 minutes faster than existing methods, with similar degrees of accuracy to manual processing. The Square Kilometer Array will be fully operational in the mid-2020s.

6. Democratizing Health Data for Medical Research

The Open Humans Network, a new online platform launched by the Knight Foundation, a group devoted to promoting innovation and open information, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a public health philanthropy, allows users to share their personal health data online to advance medical research. Users can contribute biological data, including genetic data and gut bacteria data, to provide medical researchers with valuable information traditionally not shared by competing health companies. The Open Humans Network takes an open source approach to medical data, allowing any user to access data shared on the site.

7. Facebook Gets Artificially Intelligent

Facebook unveiled new artificial intelligence capabilities at its F8 developer conference. Facebook, using a type of artificial intelligence system called deep learning, can now interpret images and understand video to a high degree. For example, Facebook’s system can even differentiate between similar actions in videos, such as whether a video of someone on skates depicts ice skating as opposed to roller skating. Facebook’s goal is to enable its systems to understand context to provide users with content that will interest users.

8. Streamlining India’s Judicial System

India’s Finance Ministry has begun to implement a national database of judicial orders and appeals designed to alleviate congestion and streamline litigation at the Income Tax Department and the Central Board of Direct Taxes. The database, called the National Judicial Reference System, has been in development for three years and contains records on 250,000 appeals and 145,000 judicial orders and judgements. The database is the first litigation management tool of its kind in the country.

9. Understanding Health and Mortality with Better Data

Bloomberg Philanthropies, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s charitable organization, and the Australian government are launching an initiative to help countries better understand health and mortality. The $100 million, four year effort will help 20 countries in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America build the tools and systems necessary to manage accurate birth and death registration systems and collect data on premature deaths. The initiative will help developing countries understand what is driving premature death in a country to allow policymakers and service providers to develop appropriate responses.

10. Publishing Data on Student Activity After Graduation

Education Scotland, the country’s department of education, now publishes data on what students do after they leave school, such as the percentage that go into the workforce or higher education. The data also includes the qualifications students have by the time they graduate a particular school. Education Scotland is publishing the data to give parents a better idea of how well a school is preparing their children, whereas previously school testing data was one of the only meaningful metrics.

Image: Hajor.


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