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10 Bits: The Data News Hotlist

by Joshua New
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This week’s list of data news highlights covers April 11-17, 2015 and includes articles about making Boston’s open data more usable and how patent data can be used to predict technological growth.

1. IBM’s Watson Takes on Healthcare

IBM announced a new initiative called Watson Health that will apply Watson’s artificial intelligence technology to health data analysis. Watson Health will analyze health data from a variety of sources and provide insights for hospitals, doctors, researchers, and potentially even patients themselves, with the ultimate goal of enabling personalized healthcare on a large scale. IBM has selected Apple, Johnson & Johnson, and Medtronic, a medical technology company, as initial partners for the program.

2. Boston’s Librarians to Make Open Data Usable

The Boston Public Library will hire a team of librarians to make the city’s open data easy for the public to find and use. Funding for the project comes from a grant by the Knight Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to improving journalism and community engagement. Boston has published its data publicly online for over a year but the city’s open data portal has suffered from usability issues. The new team’s goal is to make the city’s open data as easy to access and use by the public as books in a library.

3. Analyzing Health Data With Cybersecurity Tools

The University of Maryland Baltimore County and defence contractor Northrop Grumman have announced a partnership to analyze large amounts of health data to better understand diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. The five-year program, supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation, will assess decades of electronic health records from millions of patients with analytics tools initially designed by Northrop to assess cybersecurity risks.

4. France Opens Address Data

France has launched an open address database to provide businesses, government authorities, and the public free access to the nation’s 25 million addresses on the condition that users help keep the database up-to-date. France built the database, called the Base Adresse Nationale (BAN), to help emergency services, delivery operators, and businesses improve their navigation capability, which La Poste, France’s mail service, says is important for improving the economy and the effectiveness of public services. If users do not wish to contribute to BAN, they can access the database with a commercial license.

5. Securing the Future of Geospatial Data Collection

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), have begun work on Landsat 9, a new satellite in the Landsat program, which has produced valuable geospatial data since 1972. Landsat 9, scheduled to launch in 2023, will continue the program’s efforts to photograph the entire Earth every 16 days and provide this data to the public. Landsat data is highly valued and used by groups such as conservationists, the agriculture industry, and map providers such as Apple and Google. The new satellite will help guarantee that this data will be available for years to come, as the two satellites currently in use will be 10 and 24 years old by the time of Landsat 9’s launch.

6. Apple Connects Researchers to Health Data

Apple has released ResearchKit, an open-source software framework designed to let doctors, medical professionals, and healthcare researchers gather data that device-owners generate and record with a variety of health apps and fitness trackers. ResearcherKit allows researchers to explain their studies and educate device-owners about the benefits of contributing their data. Already, 60,000 Apple users have signed up to share their data to research studies targeting asthma, breast cancer, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease.

7. Making Clinical Trial Data Public

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for results from all clinical trials to be made public, citing the potential patient harms, wasted resources, and limits on the advancement of medical science that result from keeping these results private. WHO says that main findings of every clinical study should be submitted to peer-reviewed journals within a year after data collection ends, and the results of the study should be published within two years in publicly-accessible journals. WHO also called for previously completed studies to be published online as well, calling the failure to do so “unethical.”

8. Improving Cybersecurity with an Open Database

IBM has made 700 terabytes of cybersecurity intelligence data publicly available in an effort to help the public and private entities alike defend against cyber threats. The database, called X-Force Exchange, holds data from IBM and third parties around the world on over 15 billion cybersecurity events monitored daily. X-Force Exchange includes a variety of valuable cybersecurity data sources, such as malware threats, harmful websites, malicious IP addresses, and phishing attacks.

9. Open Data Comes to Detroit

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan signed an executive order to make the city government more open and accountable through open data. The city’s newly established open data portal currently has just 75 datasets on crime reports, building and trade permits, and efforts to fight urban decay, but will eventually house hundreds of thousands of data points from nine participating city agencies, including the Detroit Police Department, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Public Works.

10. Charting the Future of Technology with Patent Data

A team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have devised a method to monitor the rate of technological improvement by analyzing patent data. The researchers analyzed over 500,000 patents related to 28 different technologies, including 3D printing, fuel cells, and genomic sequencing, from the U.S. Patent Office’s database to develop metrics and indicators that reveal how quickly a technology is improving. The researchers used these metrics to predict the improvement of emerging technologies over the next decade and hope this method could eventually be used by investors looking to identify the latest technological breakthroughs.

Image: NASA.


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