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10 Bits: The Data News Hotlist

by Joshua New

This week’s list of data news highlights covers May 9-15, 2015 and includes articles about a researchers trying to advance economic opportunity with LinkedIn data and a DNA database that will bring closure to families of soldiers killed during World War II.

1. India Gets a Roadmap for the Internet of Things

India’s Ministry of Communication and Information Technology released a national strategy roadmap to foster the development of the Internet of Things. The roadmap will play an important role in India’s effort to establish 100 smart cities and increase the amount of digitization across the country. The strategy details the communication infrastructure necessary to support the Internet of Things, as well as global standards, policy and regulatory guidelines, and methods to accelerate the development of these technologies, such as supporting entrepreneurs and startups.

2. Making Health Data Shareable

The 21st Century Cures Act, a legislative package designed to accelerate innovation in medical technology, has been revised to include provisions that make it easier to share data within the healthcare system. The provisions would impose harsh penalties on vendors of electronic health records that maintain economic or technical barriers to data sharing. The legislation is expected to be considered next week by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

3. Studying How People Work

The professional networking site LinkedIn has granted 11 groups of researchers access to its datasets to develop new insights about the economy and job market as part of the company’s Economic Graph Challenge, which calls for proposals to increase global economic opportunity. The groups will receive access to anonymized user data as well as a $25,000 grant each, and they will publicly report their analysis in early 2016.

4. Machine Learning Gets an Art History Education

Researchers at Rutgers University have developed machine learning algorithms that can identify the style and creator of artworks with an unprecedented level of accuracy. The researchers trained the algorithms by exposing them to 80,000 paintings spanning 15 centuries. When shown new paintings, the algorithms can correctly identify the artist in over 60 percent of paintings, and the style in 45 percent of them, as well as point out similarities between works and styles that might have taken art historians years of study to understand.

5. Protecting Against Flooding With a National Database

A collaboration between the University of Southampton, the National Oceanography Centre, and the British Oceanographic Data Centre, has developed a new database designed to protect against flooding in the UK. The database, called SurgeWatch, compiles data on coastal flooding events in the UK from the last 100 years and is freely available to the public. The database creators hope the information will help engineers and city planners better understand rising sea levels, protect against the economic and environmental damages of floods, and signal the need for increased government spending on weather forecasting and monitoring.

6. The Internet of Things Gets New Building Blocks

Samsung has released a line of circuit boards, called Artik, designed to help connect more devices to the Internet of Things. The small circuit boards, which come in sizes from 12 by 12 millimeters to approximately three square centimeters, have different levels of functionality, ranging from barebones Bluetooth connectivity to 32 gigabytes of storage and a powerful processor. Samsung created the low-cost Artik line to encourage more companies to begin developing Internet of Things technologies, as well as improve their own connected products.

7. Finding Closure From WWII With a DNA Database

The Japanese government has announced the creation of a DNA database to help identify the remains of those who died in World War II. The government has previously used DNA testing to identify remains, but, due to regulatory restrictions, could only test remains that had identifiable personal items nearby, resulting in only 11 confirmed identifications. The new database will compile DNA test results from approximately 7,000 people who died on major battlegrounds to speed identification efforts to return the remains to family members.

8. Using a Neuron Database to Understand the Human Brain

The Allen Institute for Brain Science has launched a database of neuronal cell types as part of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, which aims to map the activity of the human brain’s 86 billion neurons. The database contains data on the electrophysiology of 240 neurons in the visual cortex of a mouse—a relatively small amount, but a necessary first step in understanding how neurons fire and how the brain operates as a whole. The database will eventually be expanded to be the first in the world to collect data such as gene expression and electrical activity on individual cells.

9. Wolfram Alpha Can Tell What Is In Your Pictures

Wolfram Alpha, a computational knowledge engine that answers a user’s question rather than simply returning search results like a search engine, now has a feature that can identify the contents of images. The tool processed millions of images to be able to recognize approximately 10,000 different objects, and it can guess what is in a user-submitted image in seconds. While the system has trouble recognizing certain types of subjects, such as specific people and uncommon objects, it can deliver its best guess—for example, a picture of Star Trek’s fictional USS Enterprise spaceship is identified as a “flying boat.”

10. Collecting Better Ocean Data

The UK’s National Oceanography Centre will upgrade its South Atlantic Tide Gauge Network to collect better data on the world’s oceans. The network, which has operated continuously for 30 years, provides researchers with valuable data used in estimates of global sea level change. The upgrade will add customized radar gauges and Global Positioning System sensors to the network to collect more accurate data to better understand regional sea level changes.

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