This week’s list of data news highlights covers May 2-8, 2015 and includes articles about a mobile app designed to boost the population of a threatened bird and how NASA detected heartbeats through rubble to save lives after the Nepal Earthquake.
1. Partnering for Personalized Cancer Treatments
IBM has partnered with 14 cancer treatment centers in the United States to use its Watson cognitive computing platform to develop personalized cancer treatment plans. Watson will be used to analyze genetic information from individual patient’s cancers and pair this analysis with data from relevant clinical trials and studies to identify the best possible treatment for the patient. This process could take weeks using traditional methods, but will only take several minutes using Watson.
2. Keeping Tabs on Oil Spill Data
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has created a new database to house data collected in the five years since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The database, called Data Integration, Visualization, Exploration, and Reporting, or DIVER for short, is freely available to the public and researchers and contains over 53,000 water, tissue, oil, and sediment samples, as well as photos, nearly four million chemistry analysis results, and instrument data related to the oil spill.
3. Identifying Disease Susceptibility with DNA
Researchers from the National Institutes of Health Genotype-Tissue Expression project, an initiative to provide relevant data for scientists studying the effects of genomic variants, have developed a data resource to help study how a person’s genetics can influence gene activity and susceptibility to disease. The resource allows scientists to analyze genetic data from multiple tissues and cells simultaneously to better understand how genomic variants affect the expression of certain genes that can predispose people to diseases such as cancer and diabetes.
4. Advancing Physical Therapy with a Data-Driven Robot
Researchers from the University of Texas have developed a sensor-laden robotic exoskeleton to help patients with spinal and neurological injuries. The robot allows patients to have better mobility and control of their arms while collecting 2,000 data points per second, such as information on the velocity and the amount of force applied to movements. The robot uses this data to automatically assist the patient’s movement and doctors can monitor this data in real time to adjust treatment, which researchers believe will help reduce patients’ recovery time.
The U.S. Geological Survey, the federal agency devoted to Earth sciences and natural and living resources, has released iPlover, a smartphone app designed to help collect data on the piping plover, a threatened bird that lives on the East Coast of the United States. The app allows government and independent researchers to input and share data in real-time about the bird to help support restoration efforts, as there are only 2,000 nesting pairs remaining on the East Coast.
6. Opening Data on Unique Device Identifiers
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has created a website called AccessGUDID to share data on medical devices with unique device identifiers (UDIs). The FDA implemented the UDI system to help health care providers be more informed about the devices they may encounter and potential safety hazards they might present, such as whether or not they are safe to use with an MRI machine. Currently, only the highest-risk devices have a UDI, though every device will eventually have one as the system is phased in and information on these devices will be available through AccessGUDID.
7. Reducing Traffic with Incentivized Biking
A startup based in Bogota, Colombia has released an app to encourage more cycling in the city to reduce high levels of traffic and congestion. The app, called Biko, lets users track their bike routes in exchange for discounts at local stores to reward users for not driving, and share useful information with other users, such as safe bike parking spots and street hazards. Eventually, Biko’s creators hope the app could be expanded to other cities plagued by traffic problems to improve mobility, reduce emissions, and encourage healthy habits.
8. Networking Streetlights for Smarter Cities
The cities of Randolph and Fitchburg, Massachusetts, are rolling out Internet-connected streetlights that could pave the way for future smart city initiatives. The cities will be able to control, monitor, and manage their streetlights remotely with the help of smart utilities company Silver Spring Networks, which currently operates Internet of Things infrastructure projects in cities such as Chicago, Copenhagen, and Glasgow. Connected streetlights are expected to help the cities reduce energy costs and spur the development of other smart city projects such as smart parking applications and adaptive lighting.
9. Saving Lives in Nepal with Heartbeat Sensors
Advanced sensing technology from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was responsible for identifying and saving four men trapped under 10 feet of debris from the recent Nepal earthquake. The technology, dubbed Finder (Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response), uses microwaves to detect human heartbeats through rubble and even solid concrete and can be more useful than other search and rescue tools, such as advanced microphones, because it can detect conscious and unconscious individuals alike.
10. Artificial Intelligence Can Help You Find What to Watch
A New York-based startup called Dextro has created a service that uses deep learning technology to help users sort through videos on Twitter-owned livestreaming service Periscope. Dextro’s algorithms can recognize images in Periscope streams to categorize live videos into easily-searchable categories, such as talking heads or concerts, to make it easier for users to find videos that interest them.
Image: Flickr user UK Department for International Development.